A middle management sandwich
I want to share an observation with you. People ask me if new things get started from the top or from the bottom. Is it executives or developers who get things started? How was it with maemo and Nokia’s open source work? The answer is that is started from both ends.
There are basically three kinds of people in a big corporation: company executives, middle managers, and then workers – in our context developers. Nokia is very fortunate because we have some really bright and innovative executives as well as many world class developers. So, even with our average middle management, we’re ok!
So what’s with the middle management then? There is this sandwich where the middle management (=cheese) is squeezed between the executives (=bread) and the developers (=bread). Picture this:
- A corporate executive has just red “The World is Flat” by Thomas L. Friedman. He is spiritually and emotionally engaged. He believes that all labor goes to India and that open source is the answer to the software crisis. He just learned that some guys in communities will do the work for free, and that we just need to use free software to get things done. Just do it! Party on!
- A developer has just participated debconf. He has not taken a shower after the trip. He believes that if we just use free software everything will be great. If problems arise the community will fix them. He believes he can get his driver ready with product quality for tomorrow – and if not, somebody will fix it soon. Just get it out. No worries!
- Now the corporate executive, the developer and a middle manager meet in a room. After two minutes it seems that the developer and the executive connect – they talk the same language and they agree at all levels. So it seems. The executive leaves the room saying to the middle manager: I totally agree with your developer. He is so bright. Now you just go and get things done his way. What’s stopping you?
In most cases the middle management does not have the luxury of being innovative or bright – they just need to get the products out. The middle management is under heavy workload, with unrealistic release schedules, managing primadonna engineers. These middle managers never initiate change or generate new ideas because they are too busy running arons. So the change never starts from the middle.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that you need crazy executives and religious developers to get things changed and new things started. And you need stubborn and boring middle managers to get things eventually done.
Ari, a middle manager