Command and control management stinks

Just finished reading an old article by Joel Spolsky. While I don’t agree with everything Joel has to say about this or any other topic, he makes some good points.

In pointing out the drawbacks of this management style, he highlights two key items:

Point #1

First of all, people don’t really like it very much, least of all smarty-pants software developers, who are, actually, pretty smart and are used to thinking they know more than everyone else, for perfectly good reasons, because it happens to be true, and so it really, really bothers them when they’re commanded to do something “because.”

I would throw in more than just developers. The marketers, designers, product managers, accountants, etc. that I know are smart too. And I can pretty much guarantee that they like to think for themselves and contribute at levels beyond just execution.

Point #2

A more practical drawback with Command and Control is that management literally does not have enough time to micromanage at this level, because there simply aren’t enough managers.

In our management meetings at a previous company, we’d often discuss where the bottlenecks were. Sometimes they were in product management and sometimes in development. A few weeks later, it seems like we were short on design time. The bottleneck was always moving from one group to another, but we’d work through it and try to achieve a little more balance. I’m embarrassed to say that when I was the bottleneck as a (micro)manager, work slowed to a crawl, productivity dropped, and we didn’t always arrive at the best solution for a given opportunity or challenge. I’ve learned a few things since then.

Command and control management stinks. Employees shouldn’t act out of fear or behave like mindless drones, merely executing the will of their bosses. I don’t want to work at a place like that. Why would I treat my employees that way?

I think the key is to hire smart people, paint a vision of where you want to go as a company, and then turn them loose to figure out the how to get there. No yelling or onion peeling required!



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