I have no direct experience with management consulting.

My opinions are formed by: my own observations of office politics; reading Dilbert; reading Robin Hanson; listening to stories of my friend who is an IT consultant. But I trust the other sources because they are compatible with what I observe.

Maybe it depends on a company, and maybe the one where I work now is an unually dysfunctional one (or maybe I just have better information channels and pay better attention), but most management decisions are completely idiotic. What the managers are good at optimizing for, is keeping their jobs. Even that is not done by making sure the projects succeed, but rather by destroying internal competitors.

For example, one of our managers was fired because our IT support department was actively sabotaging our project for a few months and we had no budget to seek help elsewhere; so we missed a few deadlines because we even had no servers functioning, and then the guy was fired for incompetence. The new manager is a good friend with the IT support manager, so when he got his role, our IT support department stopped actively sabotating us. This was all he ever did for us; otherwise he almost completely ignores the project. He is praised as a competent leader, because now we succeeded to catch up with the schedule. That was mostly because of the hard work of our three most competent developers. One of them was recently fired, because we had too many people on the team. And that's because the new manager also brought a few developers from his old team; they do absolutely nothing, officially because they are experts on a different programming language, but we secretly suspect they actually don't even know programming, so they don't contribute and mostly don't even go to work, but now they are part of our budget, so someone else had to go. Why not pick randomly?

How is it possible that such systems survive? My explanation is that nerds are really bad at playing power games (actually so bad that they don't even realize that such games exist or need to be played; they may even object violently, which makes them really bad allies in such games, which is why no one will even try to ally with them and educate them). Instead our weakness is the eternal childish desire to be praised by a parent figure for being smart. So whenever shit hits the fan, the developers will work extra hard to fix the problem -- without even thinking about using that as a leverage to gain more power in the organization. Most nerds are too shy to ask for a pay raise, even if they have just saved the management's collective asses. So the managers can afford to ignore the technical aspects completely as something that happens automatically at a constant cost, and can focus fully on their own internal fights.

A few months ago I was 'jokingly' trying to get my colleagues to expore the idea of what could happen if the developers decided to form a union. How the management would be completely at our mercy, because they don't understand anything, are unable to hire a replacement quickly (it took them forever to find and hire us), and with the tight schedule any waste of time would totally sink the project. Even if we would use this power for goals compatible with the company goals, we could negotiate to remove a lot of inefficiency and improve our working conditions. But we could also all ask for a raise, and for the company this whole revolution would still be profitable. -- My colleagues listen to me, mostly agreed with some conclusions on an abstract level, and then laughed because it was obviously such a silly idea. They all live in the imaginary universe where your income and quality of life is directly proportional to your coding skills and nothing else matters. I was screaming internally, but I politely laughed with them. Now some of them are being fired, regardless of their competence and hard work, and more will follow. Har har. I don't worry about them too much; it will be easy to find another job. But it will be more or less the same thing, over and over again. They had an opportunity for something better and they ignored it completely. Worst case, if the plan would backfire, they would be in the same situation they are now.

As Plato said, one of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. That's IT business in a nutshell.

That was a very entertaining read thanks.

Maybe it depends on a company, and maybe the one where I work now is an unually dysfunctional one (or maybe I just have better information channels and pay better attention), but most management decisions are completely idiotic

It is also possible that you aren't aware of most of what your management does. I'll take your word for it that many of their decisions that are visible to you are poor (maybe most of their decision are, but I'm not yet convinced). As for management consulting, I suppose that is an inferential gap that is going to be hard to bridge.

Open Thread, Dec. 28 - Jan. 3, 2016

by [anonymous] 1 min read27th Dec 2015145 comments

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