Hard News by Russell Brown

Read Post

Hard News: Campbell interviewed

81 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 Newer→ Last

  • BenWilson, in reply to NBH,

    Management do get some unfair cops, especially when treated as a stereotype. In practice there are many different skills in management, many different positions too. Some people might make a good low level manager, but not a good middle manager. Or vice versa. Some people are good at managing only one kind of team, others can manage many kinds.

    In NZ in technical fields there is a real problem of finding people to even do the job - for all the complaint that management don't know about the coalface, there is a dearth of people at the coalface who are actually prepared to stand up and become managers.

    For good reason - it is not always easy, and it can involve significant career risks. If you are, for instance, a gun computer programmer, it could seem like a good idea to move into management, but you'll then find you have no time for programming yourself, and in a field that changes rapidly, your skills get out of date fast. Then, should you find that you don't really like management, your career has gone backwards, you are no longer as highly skilled as before.

    If you opt to stay hands on (only an option for the lowest level management), you could have extremely unrealistic expectations about the team of programmers you lead, being a gun yourself. Most people are average, that's pretty much what average means. You'll end up over-promising based on what you yourself could do, but find that 7 people aren't 7 times faster than you, and you end up having to spend long hours at the coalface as well as managing the team. The management chores will suffer, as will the programming, and you'll end up appearing to fail despite extraordinary efforts (and probably achievements too, in an objective sense). It is actually fair under such circumstance that you demand a lot more money to compensate an extremely stressful job.

    The jump from low level to middle involves giving away all true connection to the coalface. The best that can be maintained is familiarity, and the skills that are meant to be developed are pure management skills. Of course at this point there is a genuine detachment from what the actual business of the firm is. Quite often you find that you are at a real disadvantage to people who specifically trained in management and have already internalized the entire process, and only lingering kudos from colleagues continues to drive you forward, although in the process of resolving disputes between them, it's likely that the pool of people who feel any genuine affection for you has shrunk considerably, and your actual peers are beginning to be the other managers.

    Senior management is a whole 'nother thing (and middle management could have many layers to wade through first). People can actually parachute straight into it, and are quite often better for it, better never to have gone through the middle at all. Often they have come full circle, not having deep management skills at all, but much more specific technical skills relating to some aspect of management that they will do as part of the top team in the organization. They could be an accounting expert, or a fantastic salesperson. If they were once a great technician, it will have been quite a while ago, and their stories will be the tedious ones elders deliver to show their roots to the masses, their mythologies upon which they base their ongoing art. These anecdata can be as likely to hinder as to help any actual progress the firm could make. Or maybe they're like politicians, friends with everyone, great at smiling, and gone in an instant, taking care never to promise anything specific, but leave an impression of safe hands and genuine concern. Managing their own image becomes extremely important.

    Who really wants to do all this? It ends up being quite a small segment of the population, and the ones who are actually good at it are likely to be as randomly distributed as people who are good on the coalface. Most managers will be average, because that's what average means.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    for all the complaint that management don’t know about the coalface, there is a dearth of people at the coalface who are actually prepared to stand up and become managers.

    While to be fair my rant was not entirely clear - that isn't the point I was making.

    Absolutely management is a skill and talented managers are valuable.

    BUT

    There is no reason why managers should always be at the top of the salary and decision making pyramid (or even that it be a pyramid at all).

    Why do we insist that managers make all the decisions? In very many cases they are least equiped to make the decision. Mark Weldon knows F all about journalism but he clearly was making a decision about what kind of journalism was good for mediaworks ... because he is the manager.

    That is an appallingly stupid situation and one that is replicated all over New Zealand.

    Even worse we actually have a small pool of quality managers in NZ to pull from so most organisations make do with very average managers ... and devolve all their decision making to those managers?!?!?!?

    As a consequence decision making in NZ organisations is almost always risk averse and dogma derived. It's unusual for it to be a catastrophically bad as at mediaworks (and I will stand by the bet that they will fail badly as a result of this decision) but it is mostly not what organisations really need in order to succeed.

    Should management be rewarded? Sure.
    Should it be rewarded more than what it is most time (doing chores)? No.
    Should they be rewarded more than the experts they manage? Hell no (unless they really are exceptional).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    good management is a thing,

    Yes. In most cases I reckon good management involves as many people as possible in decision-making. Good managers know the limits of their own knowledge; know when to delegate; can balance organisation and creative chaos; and don't cling to authority as if it were their mortal soul.
    Managers can be a strong force for good - or evil :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2110 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Why do we insist that managers make all the decisions?

    Because, that is their job. What other description can you find for the job of manager?
    At the lowest level it is making decisions as to how to get the best productivity from your staff (or team, if you must) the higher levels have more responsibility for outcomes at their level and so on.
    The problem lies in how we choose the people at the top. This, surely, should be based on merit but much of the time, especially in a small market such as New Zealand, the choice is a recommendation from people you trust, your friends and colleagues.
    So, really, it is just a product of market size and little else.

    Interestingly, or not, I have a theory about this.
    The ideal size of a community is about 150 people and a city should, naturally, be built from units of that size,communities (1 community hall for every 150 people) Wards, Boroughs... an stuff. This is, roughly in line with the numbers you see in military organisation.
    "A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–250 .
    A battalion is a military unit. The use of the term "battalion" varies by nationality and branch of service. Typically a battalion consists of 300 to 800 soldiers and is divided into a number of companies."
    Blah blah I could go on but I'd bore myself.
    This ties in nicely with the theories of Professor Robin Dunbar a British anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist and a specialist in primate behaviour, who, incidentally, has his very own number
    And.. that number is... 42.

    Nah, it is actually 150, the size of a Company.
    So, if you are trying to run a company of 1000 people, you will need 6 managers, 12 2ic (second in charge), 10 team leaders and a partridge.....
    You get the drift?

    It comes back to the fact that those in charge of it all are too few and are all members of "The Club". Anyone fancy a week at Bohemian Grove?

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    Good managers know the limits of their own knowledge; know when to delegate; can balance organisation and creative chaos; and don't cling to authority as if it were their mortal soul.

    Sounds like my favourite fictional manager, Flora Poste, from Stella Gibbons's Cold Comfort Farm. Being possessed "of every art and grace save that of earning her own living" she's the quintessentially modern figure, subtly grooming a bunch of reactionaries and misguided souls into engaging with a modern world that might otherwise have rolled right over them.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Should it be rewarded more than what it is most time (doing chores)? No.

    If that is all a particular manager is doing then I agree. But "doing chores" doesn't necessarily capture what the role of management is. I'm presuming you mean the tedious keeping of records relating to team goals and doing minor duties that could as easily be performed by a secretary, then I'd agree, but in most of the places I've worked, the good managers usually do actually get the secretaries to do that, or the workers themselves, or by improvements in the systems and software. This frees them up for other more fitting duties like planning, promoting, communicating, analyzing performance, looking for improvements, hiring, firing, conflict resolution, getting customer input and feedback, selling the team's output, advocating for more or less or better work, keeping informed about the intended direction etc. All of these tasks could also be separated into specific specialists, but in small but growing teams they tend to fall under the manager's domain. But again, a good manager is always trying to make the system work better, so they'll often be wanting to get other people in the team to help with a lot of that too, once they have established a way of doing something. They might want the team to promote their work more too, or to keep track of customer contact, or even to come up with ideas for the business direction.

    Ideally, they're like little mini business owners. If they stop working like that, or never start, and are just performing secretarial duties of a particular kind then they're pretty much not managing.

    Should they be rewarded more than the experts they manage? Hell no (unless they really are exceptional).

    Depends on the experts, and what they themselves add as value. Some experts are, mostly because of oversupply of the expertise, not in themselves actually that valuable. It is a lot easier to find 10 good programmers than one good manager of programmers. Programmers are churned out from educational programmer factories. Yes it's quite tricky and difficult work, but it's also something our education system is geared towards producing by the tens of thousands every year. By the end of a couple of years in work, they're highly productive - the skills are all well defined and the ability to meet them can be measured (not perfectly, but at least somewhat). But good management, a much softer, less easily measured skill, that can take a very long time to master, sitting in a mission critical position in a business (since failures can impact on the performance of the entire team), can be hard to find.

    I've worked in number of places where management aren't the highest paid people, and certainly the wealthiest people I know aren't just managers (although they all have to do some management). It's not uncommon for salespeople to get extraordinary pay. Sales managers, even more so, but not because they are managers so much as because they've worked out how to do sales as a team effort. Astonishingly high pay goes to merchant bankers who are mostly just consultants. Lawyers and doctors can get huge money too. Again, those of them who manage to do it in a team tend to get more, because they've worked out how to be more productive. But a head surgeon is still a surgeon, and usually a bloody good one.

    The biggest pay of all goes to actual capitalists, though. People whose own money is at stake. To call someone who sets a business up, makes it hum, and then creams it a mere manager who should get paid less than one of the workers they gave a job to is not really seeing the job for what it is. A good many capitalists lose their shirts and face years of bankruptcy for taking the risky path that it is. In bad times, most of them go this way.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Hadfield, in reply to Brent Jackson,

    I presume you’re referring to Heartland Bank. What is your beef with them ?

    That had me puzzled too. Maybe Homeland Security?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2015 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to BenWilson,

    This frees them up for other more fitting duties like planning, promoting, communicating, analyzing performance

    And Golf.

    This is one of those rare occasions that I can't agree with you Ben.

    promoting, communicating, analyzing performance, looking for improvements, hiring, firing, conflict resolution, getting customer input and feedback, selling the team's output, advocating for more or less or better work, keeping informed about the intended direction etc.

    You do say...

    All of these tasks could also be separated into specific specialists, but in small but growing teams they tend to fall under the manager's domain.

    but that is not a managers job so why are you saying that they are managers? we should have another name for that job and that name is "Hard working business owner" or "overworked employee with too few resources"
    Most businesses, that fail, fail in the first 3 years and that is, mostly, put down to undercapitalisation, ie not being able to afford good managers, salespeople, R&D boffins, Personnel people (or HR, how I hate that term) and as for "advocating for more or less or better work," well, dare I say it? that is your Union rep.

    Astonishingly high pay goes to merchant bankers who are mostly just consultants. Lawyers and doctors can get huge money too.

    I, for one, have never been astonished that, not only Merchant Bankers get a high rate of pay that seems out of kilter with reality when they act as consultants but consultants, period, also suck much out of the trough. I have always thought that if you needed a consultant you were in the wrong game but that is another bucket of fish altogether.
    In the UK very few Doctors make vast sums for their work and expertise, the same is true here if you work in public health, plus the fact that you have an enormous student loan to repay you may as well push shopping trolleys around a supermarket car-park.
    Lawyers, on the other hand can go either way, a public defender earns little compared to a corporate lawyer but does, in my opinion, more important work.

    A good many capitalists lose their shirts and face years of bankruptcy for taking the risky path that it is. In bad times, most of them go this way.

    We both know that the real Capitalists reap the biggest rewards when things go tits up for the rest of us, buying up bankrupt businesses and consolidating their market share, but that is a whole different ball of twine, or is it?.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    It is a lot easier to find 10 good programmers than one good manager of programmers. Programmers are churned out from educational programmer factories

    It's a lot easier to find 10 programmers, possibly. Are you aware of the research that shows a 10x variation in productivity between programmers? (A corollary to this is that since the best programmers are generally self-managing and productivity declines with team size, two really good programmers can do the job of many more than 20 average ones, and require a lot fewer managers).

    There are a lot of mediocrities who can trot out received dogma at interview, and could churn out endless form-filling applications, provided they have a business owner to iterate through exactly where all the fields go, etc. Good programmers are harder to find, and they aren't churned out in EducationalProgrammerFactories, they require individual instantiation*

    It's also hard to find good managers, granted, but you don't need many (a lot of functional OSS projects have none). The #1 job of any software manager is to hire good people (which is hard) and the #2 job is not to piss them off too much (which is also hard).

    * Bad Java joke

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Mark Weldon knows F all about journalism but he clearly was making a decision about what kind of journalism was good for mediaworks

    the guy wanted a desk in the newsroom.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Are you aware of the research that shows a 10x variation in productivity between programmers?

    No, but it tallies entirely with my 20 odd years of experience with programmers. Some of them have incredible output. In others it's hard to understand how they could even call themselves a programmer. As I said, most are in the middle of that range, although there is a long right tail to that data. The exact same comment could be made of many highly skilled professions. Of course there are outliers in both directions, so we can have an order of magnitude difference between the top and bottom. But you'll notice that the mean productivity in the link you gave is around the 4x mark, and the interquartile range about 2.5x to 6x. Half of the programmers fit in there. It's not going to be hard to find people who are 2.5 to 6 times better than the worst programmer on the books (the baseline of 1, although I'd say that is a false baseline since the least possible ability is actually zero).

    (A corollary to this is that since the best programmers are generally self-managing and productivity declines with team size, two really good programmers can do the job of many more than 20 average ones, and require a lot fewer managers

    No, that's completely false. two exceptionally good programmers get 20x. That's slightly less than 5 average ones. They're only the equivalent of a team of 20 nearly useless programmers, who are themselves also completely exceptional, the chances of randomly assembling such a team are astronomically low (on the order of 0.01^20 if the worst person is one in a hundred). It's not exceptional to be unable to program, most people can't. But it's exceptional to get and hold onto a programming job if that is your skill level - 4 times worse than average. Even management will notice.

    Good programmers are harder to find

    I don't think so. People who are trained in it are mostly about average. Half of them are better than that. Exceptionally good programmers are hard to find - by definition. If by "hard to find" you mean "rare". If you mean "hard to identify", then I don't think so. That's only the case for n00bs with no track record, who are, mostly not yet good programmers anyway, even if they might become so later. If you mean "hard to get to come to a job interview" then that's actually mostly a statement about supply and demand. Of course the guns want to get paid heaps and are probably locked in by some lucky employer elsewhere. What's hard isn't finding them, it's paying for them.

    I think most of the same comments apply to management. The difference is that management quality assessment is a much less precise thing than measuring programmer productivity. It's no wonder they end up using "the bottom line". Because all the other KPIs in the world can be considered total rubbish if the bottom line is killed by them and the company dies as a result.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    the chances of randomly assembling such a team are astronomically low

    But teams aren't randomly assembled. The company decides that it can import coders from the Philippines or someplace on a temporary work permit and pay them $20k a year - the good ones then realize they're being screwed and jump ship to proper jobs.

    I see your point on average vs worst, but there are two factors not included in McConnell's 10x that I was alluding to:
    - the bigger the team, the less efficient. If you can size a job to be done by a single developer in the required time, that's optimum. The "better" the developer, the more work they can do as a self-contained unit. Too many cooks, etc.
    - managers cost money. Less programmers (especially if they mostly self-manage) means less managers, hence more functionality per $$.

    What’s hard isn’t finding them, it’s paying for them

    In production per dollar of wages, the expensive programmers cost less. Of course, there are many reasons why management (and staff) might not want rock stars on high six figures in the company.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    They are inroducing paid parking for both staff and students at the University of Waikato next year. Doesn't affect me as I usually bus or bike but there does seem to be a bit of a class system, in that if you fork out $750 annually, you get a numbered carpark (effectively a pay cut?). Management are denying it is a revenue-generationg scheme.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2559 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Just noticed Mihingarangi Forbes is gone from Maori TV too Same shit different day eh?

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    Mihi did a great job exposing corruption in the Te Kohanga Reo Trust Board. As I recall that didn't go down well with station execs who didn't think maori should expose wrong within maori organisations, even when the ripoffs revealed were so blatant and just plain wrong. According to Stuff...

    It is understood Forbes' resignation comes after Maori Television executives took exception to a new two-piece investigation following on from the Te Kohanga Reo story and which was due to begin on Monday.

    Our airwaves are becoming more Fifa-like by the day.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1436 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    But teams aren’t randomly assembled. The company decides that it can import coders from the Philippines or someplace on a temporary work permit and pay them $20k a year – the good ones then realize they’re being screwed and jump ship to proper jobs.

    Yes, if you deliberately set out to select a team of shitty programmers, you'll definitely succeed. Alternatively you could take the opposite course of keeping the good ones, and pay them more.

    the bigger the team, the less efficient. If you can size a job to be done by a single developer in the required time, that’s optimum.

    Not in every case. You might want to get to market faster and a job that takes one person a year could take 2 people only 6 months, or 10 people only 4 months. The 2 months could be worth millions of dollars in sales, easily justifying 8x2 months extra wages. Also, I dispute that less are more efficient, even in general. Programming has many specialized roles, and you don't want the database guru sitting there writing code in a language he/she hasn't yet mastered just because you have a management theory, nor do you want the specialist in optimization algorithms wasting months working out how to set up the database. In general, synergy, specialization and economies of scale tend to make teams get stuff done a lot faster. And if your project is large you have no choice anyway.

    But certainly there are numerous inefficiencies in teams that a single operator doesn't have, and that lasts for as long as the operator stays there, and hasn't built up a large code base they have to support, at which point their idiosyncratic method that was not extensively reviewed or documented because it didn't need to be is a big liability.

    managers cost money. Less programmers (especially if they mostly self-manage) means less managers, hence more functionality per $$.

    Unless, of course, their lack of management screws the whole project, which is hardly an uncommon scenario. Someone is always managing them, even if it's the customers themselves. Which means they're wasting their own time on a task they could outsource to a professional, and taking a huge risk on something that's possibly well outside their competence.

    In production per dollar of wages, the expensive programmers cost less.

    That might be true in general.

    Of course, there are many reasons why management (and staff) might not want rock stars on high six figures in the company.

    The age-old solution is to promote the rock stars to some kind of management.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Alfie,

    Our airwaves are becoming more Fifa-like by the day.

    Chomsky's Propaganda Model is officially established in NZ. I'm tempted to think the media sector in NZ is no longer a free speech issue, but rather more like a matter for the Commerce Commission, because no one else has the dosh to put up a counter-weight media outlet.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5430 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Alfie,

    As I recall that didn’t go down well with station execs who didn’t think maori should expose wrong within maori organisations

    And given the example from mediaworks that capitalist right wing owned and managed TV stations shouldn't criticize capitalist right wing governments, they exercised their power

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    It does seem as though we have some really good journalists underused at the moment who if they got together would make for a really nice entity that I'd love to help fund. Perhaps using something like https://www.patreon.com/Patreon

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Oh, some justice is served. Fuck Mediaworks and it's ass.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    I feel for Mark Jennings. Good journo and generally straight shooter. But between the rack and two hard people.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2110 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    If TV3 news struggles, we all suffer the consequences.

    Classic example tonight: Corin Dann has an "exclusive". In other words, a story given to him by the government. They know he's happy to be the mouthpiece, to disguise (poorly) their PR as his journalism, so they get a good spin on a bad topic for them (housing).

    Nothing new there, it's SOP for media management, but less competition = more manipulation. And TVNZ has proved far more pliable than TV3 in recent years.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1330 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to simon g,

    If TV3 news struggles, we all suffer the consequences.

    Classic example tonight: Corin Dann

    Two things: TV3 news is already dead. It is now controlled by Weldon and Christie and only exists to advertise shows like dancing with the D-list.

    Patrick Gower is as bad as Corin Dann. Political reporting is simply passing on the latest gossip from their "friends" on the government benches.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to simon g,

    TV3 has made it's own bed. They will have to do a little more than advertise 'dancing with the stars' or Paul Henry to prove their worthiness to me. We have been fed a diet of PR dressed up as journalism for so long now ,I could blame that for 3's direction and if so that is just lazy. The likes of the "gotcha" reporting from Gower for one, says also to me that the journalist is not non partisan anyway. His rant being an example of that.
    Nah, TV3 deserve a kick up the ass. How about TVNZ are state owned with expectations, until their charter changes, their hands are tied, TV3 had a chance to make a stand and didn't. Mark Jennings is between a rock and a hard place. This is it. People have spoken and for once it has had it's point made. Power to the people, just not John Key, he has too much.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    No, I’d say Gower and Dann are quite different, and reflect their respective networks. Dann is tame, Gower is feral. Unfortunately Gower is more likely to hunt a credit card overspender than a Minister who misplaces the odd billion. Neither serves the public well, though.

    TV3 news has, under Mark Jennings, made some effort at decent journalism (e.g. Mike McRoberts being dispatched to war zones, and doing a real reporter’s job, something Ken and Barbie would never do at TVNZ). But the MediaWorks decline seems irreversible now. Their Sunday ratings hit has affected 3D, which in its previous guise did some solid work (e.g. Teina Pora).

    (ETA: replying to Bart)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1330 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.