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Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

I read this Paul Graham essay quite a while ago; Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, and I’ve been wanting to blog about it ever since. Recently, it was referred to me by others at least twice, so the time has come to add my 2 cents.

In his aptly titled essay, Paul says this about a manager’s schedule:

The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

Regarding the maker’s schedule, he writes:

But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started. When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster.

When managers graduate from being a maker and morph into bozos (of which there are legions), they develop severe cases of ADHD and (incredibly,) they “forget” the implications of the maker-manager schedule difference. For these self-important dudes, it’s status and reporting meetings galore  so that they can “stay on top” of things and lead their teams to victory. While telling their people that they need to become more efficient and productive to stay competitive, they shite in their own beds by constantly interrupting the makers to monitor status and determine schedule compliance. The sad thing is that when the unreasonable schedules they pull out of their asses inevitably slip, the only technique they know how to employ to get back on track is the ratcheting up of pressure to “meet schedule”.  They’re bozos, so how can anyone expect anything different – like asking how they could personally help out or what obstacles they can help the makers overcome. Bummer.

  1. Ray
    January 16, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Good managers (I have worked for several) will shield the “DICs” from the high level bullets. Which means sometimes going to meetings without technical support and having to say “I don’t know. I will get back to you with an answer.” Then going back and asking his question to the right people and getting the answer out. This allows the best use of everybody’s time. Its the initial saying “you don’t know” that is the hardest but it keeps your people working on the project/product rather than being at a hour meeting for 5 minutes of contribution.

    • January 16, 2010 at 9:17 pm

      You’ve worked for several? Dude, lucky you.

      I think you’re right on with the “I don’t know” idea – when one really doesn’t know. Depending on the cultural environment that one is enveloped in and how high up on the ladder one is, it may be extremely difficult to say it when it’s true. It’s tough enough to admit even in healthy environments because of the almost-universal ego driven desire (especially in materialistic western nations) to look smart in front of others. I know this because I’ve failed at it many times in both hostile and nurturing environments. When I can do it consistently in both types of surroundings, I’ll know that “I’ve arrived”. Sadly, I can’t see that happening anytime soon. Bummer.

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