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Magical Transformation

In this interview of Scott Berkun by Michael “Rands In Repose” Lopp, “Rands In Repose: Interview: Scott Berkun“, Scott was asked about his former stint at Microsoft as a program manager. Specifically, Rands asked Scott what his definition of “program manager” is. Here is Scott’s answer:

It’s a glorified term for a project leader or team lead, the person on every squad of developers who makes the tough decisions, pushes hard for progress, and does anything they can to help the team move forward. At its peak in the 80s and 90s, this was a respected role of smart, hard driving and dedicated leaders who knew how to make things happen. As the company grew, there became too many of them and they’re often (but not always) seen now as annoying and bureaucratic.

Americans have a love affair with small businesses. But due to the SCOLs, CGHs, BUTTs, and BMs that ran companies like Enron, Tyco, and Lehman Bros, big businesses are untrusted and often reviled by the public. That’s because, when a company grows, its leaders often “magically” morph into self-serving, obstacle-erecting, and progress-inhibiting bureaucrats; often without even knowing that the transformation is taking place. D’oh! I hate when that happens.

  1. March 11, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Is it coincidence, correlation, or causation that this “magical” transformation occurs right around the time that smaller, privately-owned companies go public?

    Wall Street’s preoccupation with predictable revenue and earnings growth has a proven track record of taking companies that used to focus on the right long term goals and converting them to companies that focus on short term numbers.

    • March 11, 2012 at 8:28 am

      I dunno. Could be any or all 3 of your “C”s. The trigger could be as simple as “growth”. The transition could be “instantaneous” or a slooow unnoticed deterioration like the boiled frog sydrome (Org3).

      LB Xition

  2. March 11, 2012 at 10:43 am

    You’re right, there are lots of drivers here. But I’ve seen more bad decisions made to hit this quarters financial goals by executives of publicly held companies.

  3. Doug
    March 11, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Good piece. In my experience this transformation is precisely what foliagecalfree(?) alluded to. It is when the merit measures for the manager’s performance shifts from meeting “specifications delivered on time with an extra buzz” to meeting the top down financial targets that the accounting universe, which is stuck in primitive 18th century understandings of systems thinking, foist on operations. In effect, it is one the major ways in which Ashby’s law of requisite variety is routinely violated by organizations to their detriment.

    Transform financials into a whole systems viewpoint and reward managers for production/service flows between each other, and the organization will profit tremendously (other factors being equal).

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