Monday, October 14, 2013

What is the Source of Tension Between Management and Tech Staff?

A first way to approach the divide between geeks and suits is to understand the nature and dynamic of the tension between management and tech staff.

For my money, the heart of it is we need one another but don’t like one another.

From the geek point of view, management is unpredictable.  When you say something to a suit, you have no idea what you’re going to get back: it could be a pat on the cheek; it could be a knife in the back; it could be flattering praise; it could be a curse and a blow; ultimately, it could be a pink slip.

What’s to like for a geek about a system whose output isn’t predictable – or at least understandable – as a function of your input?

But it’s a system that we need.  The pink slip says it all: management controls access to food, clothing, shelter, self-actualization, and self-esteem.  So your whole Hierarchy of Needs is in the hands of a lunatic.  That’s the geek point of view.

Strangely, management thinks of geeks almost exactly the same way.  When you speak to them, you have no idea what you’re going to get back: a smile; a snarl; a great demo; terrible news about a slipped schedule or a new tech obstacle.

What’s to like for a suit about a system whose outputs aren’t predictable from your inputs?

And, it’s a system that we need.  Without the geeks, the Morlocks of modern industry, management can’t get food, clothing, shelter, self-actualization, or self-esteem.

Both sides find the other side unpredictable and incomprehensible.  That’s a recipe for some touch Solution Pitching.

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