Management is a specific skill

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Cavalry don’t ride horses any more. Managers stuck in the old ways of doing things are the primary obstacle to better ways of working.

Another common problem is people promoted to management because of their technical seniority, not their management skills. Management is a skill, just as building software is. There is almost no overlap in those skills.  By demanding both, you are narrowing the field of good managers.  I’d happily manage people in a factory, hospital, or airline

That comment from Musk fuels both problems.

 

If the workers are less expert than management, you have the wrong people in management, put them back into value work.

If the workers are more expert than management, trust them make the decisions. Then what does it matter how much the knowledge difference is?

Only in an old-school world where problems and decisions have to be escalated to be resolved by “superiors” do you need domain  knowledge.

Guidance comes from one who is experienced. There is no reason it need come from a boss. We need to move away from the idea that managers have to be masters of the skill. Management a job with its own skills. Let’s not overburden them with needing to also be experts. The expert leadership can and should be in the team.

In modern management, authority and decision making is distributed. Those closest to the work are best qualified to make decisions and resolve problems. Managers are servants and gardeners not commanders and parents. In that paradigm, technical knowledge is very much a nice to have. I have been a generalist for 20 years. I can learn as much as I need to know about a specialist area in an hour or two at a whiteboard with an expert. So it is with any good manager.

I would sooner have a manager with great management skills, who was smart enough to learn enough about my job to be able to talk to me about it, than have a skilled person promoted into a manager role they suck at.