Managers should have a clearly defined role

Beware the all-purpose manager whose job description has no specific duties. Such managers can delegate everything, or they can micro-manage decisions they aren't qualified to make. Beware the manager whose job is to be "in charge," to "supervise," or to manage "processes." Their only verifiable responsibility is to reassure their own managers that all is under control.

Like any other employee, a manager should make specific contributions to the business of the company. In software, there are needs for "program managers" who track schedules, estimate required resources, and help remove obstacles. "Product managers" talk to customers and serve as advocates for product features. "Technical leads" arbitrate decisions about technical issues and help set realistic goals. All must find a way to compromise together. No single role can ignore the priorities of the others.

Beware the manager who attempts to decree complete solutions. Beware the manager who ignores technical obstacles as details. A manager who can prioritize the importance of problems may not able to guide solutions, or vice versa.

Beware the manager who thinks making a decision is productive work. The actual work of research and analysis should make a decision obvious.

Bill Harlan, 1999

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