I have been sitting here this morning listening to the two senior people in the security operations center I work in discussing staffing and access. You see, the security operations center does not currently operate. We are in the process of standing it up.
In any event, as I listen to them speak about what access entry-level and journeyman people will need versus what rights and privileges “senior” people will need, I am reminded once again of a fatal flaw in organizational thinking regarding management.
In a couple of months, when this operations center is fully operational, I am certain I will find myself reporting to some “senior” person. However, the use of the term “senior” is meant to describe the level of experience the individual in question has with a certain set of tools, or in a certain environment. It is akin to describing an auto mechanic as a journeyman vs a “master” mechanic. The problem being, knowing how to fix a car doesn’t mean you know how to run a dealership.
I am speaking now as someone who will always be a technician and never a manager because I do not have a degree or a PMP certification. But the simple fact is that both I and every other contractor I know has worked on one or more failed programs run by people who do have degrees and PMP certifications. So, while I know no one is ever going to actually read and act on what I have to say here, I will say it anyway.
Management is not a college major. It’s not a name tag. It’s not a corner office, power ties, or business lunches. It’s not being called “sir” or “ma’am” by ass kissers in your office. Management is a role, a process, a means to an end. And on the whole I think we have entirely too many wholly unqualified individuals sitting in big chairs, with big titles…who don’t know shit.
Management starts with clearly understanding what has to be done, and selecting the right people to get it done. It begins with the creation of accurate job descriptions. It involves cooperation between recruiters, hiring managers, and the actual manager who will lead the personnel in question. It involves actually understanding the work and the skillsets required to accomplish it.
After you have determined the goal and hired the personnel, you need to clearly define the roles, the milestone, the expectations, the penalties and incentives, and the risks. Then you need to pass this information on to your people. There is nothing less productive than an employee that does not understand what they are doing, why they are doing it, when it needs to be done, and in what manner. A clueless employee is just a butt in a seat. An FTE. An excuse to bill hours to the customer. You do your customer, your company, and your employees a disservice when you engage in this type of management.
Management involves a clearly defined and understood chain of command. One of the things I liked best about my favorite manager of all time is that when the customer showed up in our space and started grilling us, she would intercede. I can still recall her saying, “If you have a question or a problem, you come talk to me. Do not talk to my people.” *That* is management. That is freeing me to do my job by taking on the responsibility of doing yours.
Lastly, management involves a lot of intangibles. Sure, you have the pedigree. You have your bachelor’s or master’s…or God-forbid your PhD. You have your PMP. You have your 40 hours of this training and 80 hours of that. All wonderful.
Do you know how to motivate people? Do you know how to get the best out of the people who work for you? Do your employees see themselves as part of a team, and you as the team leader? Do you take the side of an employee when they are right, even if it puts you at odds with YOUR manager?
Or do you see your job as simply standing by the clock to monitor when people come in and when they leave; cracking the whip from time to time during the day; taking long lunches and; hanging out with big-wigs?
Can you juggle multiple tasks, and people, and events? Do you freeze in an emergency? Are you capable of prioritizing, providing guidance, and pushing your team across the finish line? Or do you simply provide the excuses and point the finger at other people when things go sour?
I will never be a manager, because I lack the credentials. In spite of the fact that I manage an international gaming group with hundreds of members, and spend my evenings managing a much larger group of people than most of the organizations for whom I work. In spite of the fact that I can, and do, all of the things I listed above.
The truth of the matter is, it doesn’t really bother me much. I have enough to deal with at home and in the cloud. I am happy to do my job, cash my check, and go home. But on some level, it does stick in my crawl a little. Always having to answer to people who I wouldn’t let run one of my guilds, much less handle national security related activities.
And the further truth of the matter is, it’s their loss not mine. I make plenty of money. I forget what’s going on at work as soon as my ass hits my car seat. I have my evenings and weekends to spend as I like. There are no long hours or late nights.
So why am I “bitching”? Because it grates on me a little that someone who has no real skill or ability in management will be placed in charge of me because the “paper well”.
Sigh…. 20 more years to go….