“Why don’t I have a manager?”
I can’t imagine any software developer worth their salt ever asking that question. Developers don’t need a manager, and the word itself is a pejorative to me. In fact, in Sonatype’s engineering organization, there is no such role, at least not in a classic sense. There are plenty of leaders though, but not because they were anointed as such but because it is obvious to everyone else that they are leaders. People naturally look to these leaders for guidance. They follow them and are influenced by them, which is what leadership is really about. And, when viewed through that lens, a system of unnecessary hierarchy compounds the problems, along with the politics and bureaucracy that results from it.
Jack Welch quipped, “Don’t manage. Lead.” And, when you have the right people in the right environment, there is rarely a need to manage. With the exception of the rare crisis, the team will just go where it needs to go. When that’s not clear or when they think they are being asked to go somewhere that is in conflict with their mental model of the world, you will definitely hear about it, often LOUDLY (ignore those cries at your peril).
Some people have told me I’m crazy to have around 30 direct reports. Actually, it has often been more like, “Are you effing insane?” While it might look like that on the org chart above, it’s not really the way it works. There are generally clear lines of responsibility, but those lines are primarily emergent properties versus a structure that was imposed. They are (mostly) a manifestation of the organization’s continuous improvement efforts, with a few nudges and tweaks along the way.
The result is an organization built by the organization itself. Engineers like building things, and there’s a lot to be said about being part of something you’ve contributed to building. I’m proud to say that I’ve had an enormous amount of help building this organization, without a “manager” in sight.
Latest posts by Mike Hansen (see all)
- Nexus Firewall – Quality at Velocity - February 1, 2017
- The Reports of Agile’s Death have been Greatly Exaggerated - June 22, 2016
- The Low Cost of High Caliber Developers - March 7, 2016
- The Nexus Firewall – Perimeter Defense for Software Development - November 18, 2015
- Software Supply Chain Automation - May 13, 2015