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Hiring A New Manager

My company's software team* consists of:

4 Software engineers
1 QA engineer

Prior to this month they reported to the R&D manager.  Now, he has brought in a "program manager" from outside the company to lead the software team instead of him.

Question: In your experience why does a company choose to bring in management from outside a company when it seems as if there are competent people already here?


*I'm in the marketing department.

TB Sheets
Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Insufficient information. First of all, is your question (a) why did they feel the need to create this position at all, or (b) why did they go outside the company for it instead of filling from within? Was it the R&D manager's decision to hire a PM, or did someone higher up make the call? What other responsibilities does the R&D manager have that might compete with his former role managing the dev team?

In short, there are so many possible reasons for this that it's really impossible to say without much more background. Why do *you* think this happened?

Could you just ask the guy why he did this? (Obviously depends on what kind of rapport you have with him. You might not get a complete/honest answer, but at least you might get some clues.)

John C.
Wednesday, February 26, 2003


My question addresses option (b): "why did they go outside the company for it instead of filling from within?" I'd like to ask the manager but I have no rapport with him, nor would I get a real answer.

Basically, I'm asking about this in a general sense.

TB Sheets
Wednesday, February 26, 2003

This is shooting in the dark, but it sounds like the R&D manager wanted to get a product out, rather than development done.

From that could come an evaluation of existing staff and whether any had managed a development into producing a product.  If they hadn't then hiring someone with the experience seems reasonable.

I can sort of understand your unspoken concern since (if you're in a US company), this tends to be a marketing function rather than a technical management one. 

Now having erected an edifice on sand I shall move on.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Is the company expanding?

It's possible the R&D director needs to spend more time focusing on the long term business future of development from a company perspective, and delegating the managing of existing products to the program manager.

Better than being unemployed...
Wednesday, February 26, 2003

The current employees may be competent developers, but are they competent program managers?

Brent P. Newhall
Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Yes, there's always the question of whether current employees are competent enough to be (or even want to be) a manager.

In your experience does hiring someone to be a manager from outside the company equal success?

TB Sheets
Wednesday, February 26, 2003

It basically sucks.  Why didn't they promote from within?  This is a nightmare scenario - you're tapped for all the grunt work with no room for professional growth.  Get out.

Nat Ersoz
Wednesday, February 26, 2003

I don't think it's that simple.
First of all, there is no reason a developer *has* to become management - there's nothing wrong with simply staying on the code/design side of things. In fact, people should be encouraged to stay where they are comfortable and most competent. "Up or out" mentalities (IMHO) suck and are far worse for morale.

Having said that, and since it seems in this case the original poster *does* want to move up...

For hiring from the outside:
1) The hiring manager may have felt nobody on the team was ready for a position this senior
2) (1) can be fed if nobody on the team has *shown* any management/leadership tendencies (taking charge in meetings, pushing deadlines, keeping the boss informed, being proactive)
3) If the development team is working well together, far more damage can be done breaking up the team than bringing in a new manager
4) Four developers, one management position - *who* do you promote? And guaranteed that it's going to create bad blood among the other three. In this situation you can promote if one person is acting as a de facto manager already (see 2 above), or else you promote them to another team within the company
5) New manager has a proven track record of managing profit/loss and delivering projects on time.

Against hiring from the outside:
1) New manager, new management style, complete cluelessness about the project. Unless the guy is really good, then the prior manager better babysit him for a while or else everything is gonna go to hell
2) Potential cronyism - "My friend needs a job". I got a manager this way; he was the worst manager I've worked for in my entire career.
3) New manager has an MBA, and this somehow makes him instantly better.

Note that if there *is* a developer who's showing management talent, he should've been pulled aside and told why he wasn't getting the job.

All of this is basic leadership theory (which I understand is NOT taught in Business school). It's definitely lacking in the business world.


Philip Janus
Wednesday, February 26, 2003

The obvious answer is to go an ask the R&D manager. No good manager is going to object to being asked a question like this, provided it's phrased as a question and not as a criticism. In the best case, asking the question shows interest in the process, and that's management potential!

David Clayworth
Wednesday, February 26, 2003

>>All of this is basic leadership theory (which I understand is NOT taught in Business school). It's definitely lacking in the business world.<<

Philo, all this, and many more useful things ARE taught in Business school (well, at least all this was taught in the University where I had management course).
The problem is that a lot of managers in real were bad students, or they were students of techie schools:) (half-kidding here:). For some reason many managers don't have good management education and/or skills.
Also, many bosses think that if someone is good techie/programmer/accountant/whoever professional, he will be a good manager also. Wrong. The guy has professional skills, and no managerial skills/education at all. He starts to manage using "common sense", and the problems here are:
1) common sense isn't good enough to replace skills/education
2) he using his own "common sense", not really common:)

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Slava, thanks for the correction and expanding on my point. For the "leadership is not taught in business school" I was going from anecdotal evidence - I'm glad to hear I was wrong...


Philip Janus
Wednesday, February 26, 2003

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