Sharing my thoughts on software development

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Two management styles

There are two brilliant managers called Jack and Gordon.

They both work for the same company -- it's one of the nation's biggest corporation and has huge influence in the market. Having a job in the company is considered a privilege, let alone a managerial position. One has to be cream of the most brilliant crop to get there.

Jack is a very smart man, and he has gained substantial experience in this field to make him a distinguished expert in the company. This is not to say he lacks social skills though. In fact people admit that he posses both technical expertise and some political talent. He is a star leading a team of experts solving some of the company's most difficult problems. His talent is both widely appreciated by the senior management and admired by fellow employees, even those who are not in his team.

Gordon is also a very smart man, although not quite as sharp as Jack is. He is considered by most people to be a people's manager as compared to Jack, who is both a remarkable manager AND technical leader. Gordon's team is also one of the most successful teams in the company, the product they created has received outstanding reception and is bringing the company a steady stream of income measured in the millions. The success of Gordon, as people say, is widely contributed to the great idea (which did not come up by himself) and a superb team he got stuck with. His team is indeed superb, many of them have proved themselves to be A players and there is one young guy who is considered to be a wizard even among his team of A players, a star employee he is. Anyone who is lucky enough to stuck with a good idea and a superb team like Gordon's would have succeeded, probably more wildly than Gordon have.

Fast forward fifteen years.

Jack has gotten old and has stepped away from the company's core team since he lost his sharpness a while ago. The company still treats him well though, and he is enjoying his life with a much less stressful job. He misses the glory days, but nobody can fight time, his time has passed.

Gordon has lost the best members of his original team, three of them including the star employee were promoted "past" him, others eventually left and got promotion in other companies. But the team somehow managed to survive, he always seem to be lucky to recruit a few remarkable employees who kept the team and Gordon himself afloat, until about five years ago when he was promoted to senior management. "It is all due to his political talent", some people say.

But the company's chief architect disagrees:"He (Gordon) is the best manager I've ever met and the time working for him was the best of my career. He did not only understand both the business and technical sides, shielded us from senior management pressure, but also cared for us personally. He fought tooth and nails with HR to give us bigger raises and single handedly convinced senior management to promote me to the architect team. Without him, I wouldn't have been where I am now. I am so glad that I am reporting to him again."

The chief architect was not the only one Gordon promoted -- almost a dozen of the company's current managers used to work in Gordon's team and have since been recognized and promoted. They were equally thankful for the chance to work for Gordon. On the other hand, nobody seems to remember Jack except a few old timers, and Jack has never been "lucky" enough to recruit such talented people like Gordon has. Those "B players" who worked for him have either stayed where they were or have since left the company.

"Luck" is really important, as people say.

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