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Ask Joel Rant on Program Managers

Hi,

Does anyone have a link to Joel's rant on what program managers do? It was basically about how they cajole programmers into doing stuff whilst appearing to swan about in their chinos.

It was too good to be lost for posterity...

Thanks,

Mark

Mark
Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Why not just try searching, with something like:

http://discuss.fogcreek.com/newyork/?cmd=search&q=program+manager

Nemesis
Tuesday, August 24, 2004

http://discuss.fogcreek.com/newyork/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=2135

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Wow. Just read it. Joel really comes off like an egomaniac.

I'm sure what he said is mostly true, for him. However, he paints the PM role with a pretty wide brush. Some PMs don't use Jedi mind tricks to manipulate. He states that the PMs really are in control, even though the devs think they really are. Some PMs think this way, as do some developers.

But in healthy orgs, its a partnership. Good developers will us PMs as a resource, realizing PMs have data points the dev lacks. But they will also have some degree of skepticism, and try to filter out crap, knowing that they also have data points the PM lacks. Its a cooperative process, not one side manipulation. Most good devs realize this, most good PMs realize this. If Joel really thought he was always one leg up on the devs, I'm guessing he didn't even realize when he was being manipulated likewise.

Maybe he was one of those PMs who would pop into a dev’s office with a great idea, and start laying on the flattery. You'll hear them say things like "A customer wants feature X, just like in product Y. I told him it was really hard with our architecture, that it probably couldn't be done in time, even by a really awesome engineer like yourself. What do you think?" This strokes ego and might work for a short while, but eventually the smart ones will figure out your MO. The smart ones are the ones you need on your side the most.

Yes, you should keep developers egos in mind when presenting ideas, but you need not be manipulative. You can be honest. When there is dev who responds negatively to a solid plan (or feature or bug fix or whatever), you can build consensus among the other engineers. If you are successful doing that, then they often they can convince the holdout. If you can't get the desired consensus, then chances are it was a bad idea anyway.

If your way of working is to slyly manipulate, you'll get pegged as underhanded and your job slowly becomes harder and harder, because the engineers lose trust. They like honesty. Its almost like they're real people.

ronk!
Tuesday, August 24, 2004

"Joel really comes off like an egomaniac."

Tell us something new ;-)

Nemesis
Wednesday, August 25, 2004

As a PM I agree with ronk! This is not a one upmanship game. we are in this together and the only way we will win is by doing it together. We each have our own skills and these complement each other. Developers can write the code and I can interface with all parties. Who is to say who is better? Both skills are required and as Joel said finding someone who has 2 complete gene sets is impossible to find (except for Joel of course). And even if you do find someone like that they will be so busy doing 2 jobs they will either burn out or drop one or more of the balls. I am thankful we are all different, what a boring life it would be if we were all the same. Now lest acknowledge the fact and work together. BTW the fact that I don't know how to code doesn't make me any stupider then you not being able to run a conference with 20 different parties and walk out of it with a signed spec..

Julian Jackson
Wednesday, August 25, 2004

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