Management vs Ownership

Down with managers!!! You gotta own it!!!

I've been a software developer for over 25 years and I have lead development teams of all shapes and sizes. I've lead teams of one to 20, people working side by side, and groups spread across the planet.

In all my experience I've come to understand the value of ownership over management when it comes to creative work - and yes, software development is all about creativity.

Hire the best manager in the world and they'll be a rockstar at keeping the status quo. They'll make sure all procedures are followed and make sure that the "machine" keeps doing what it's supposed to do. Day in and day out. Great, right? Yes, but only if you don't care about evolution.

Evolution is what made primordial ooze into the dominant species on the planet. Evolution drives improvements. Evolution is what takes your product or company from a dream into reality. Evolution solves problems and sells products. Everything evolves to survive except "managers." By design and description, a manager doesn't evolve or drive evolution. That's what owners do.

Owners look at what they have every day and only think about how to make it better. They see flaws in almost everything they "own" regardless of who created it or how good it is today. Owners live by the mantra "It would/could be better if..." Whether through small or large improvements, owners evolve what they own every second of every day. Owners drive evolution. It's in the owners DNA.

An owner takes their product or company and pushes it forward forcing change, forcing evolution for the sake of making what they own better.

When you think of an owner you probably have visions of things like home owner, company founder, CEO's. But, anyone can be empowered to "own" what is under their care. They simply have to be trusted to do so.

An important side note, using common venacular, C-players can't own unless they become B-players. B-players stuggle with ownership until they become A-players. Once an A-player walks into the room, you need to have the confidence to let them own their work. Allow them to make the tough decisions ,empower them to make what their working on better, and trust that you made the right decision in hiring this person to begin with.

How do you empower? Set goals, not limits. Set objectives, not how-tos. Create environments that allow your teams to flourish. Doing so, from a business percpective, can be horrifying. However, you can mitigate the fears by implementing proper objectives oversight and "puzzle-sight."

What's Puzzle-sight? It's when you step up and away from the 1,000 piece puzzle to look at the cohesive picture, versus the individual pieces. Ensuring that the pieces fit together, not focusing on what each individual one looks like.

Where over-sight ensures objects are met, puzzle-sight ensures the outcomes like like they were designed to look like. This applies to everything from landscaping to software development.

The best software developers I've ever known would hardly consider themselves developers. However, to me, they were great ones because they didn't focus on the "how" so much as the "what." What are we trying to accomplish? What is our objective? They always achieved the "whats" and that, to me, is a great developer.

Count Dooku v.s Darth Vader - who owned it? A great geek reference to analogize the concept of managers v.s owners is Count Dooku v.s. Darth Vader in the Star Wars universe. Both of these were great Sith Lords. Each serving their master diligently. However, where the Count was a manager, Darth Vader was an "owner" and he was empowered to be one. He took ownership of his role and delivered above and beyond what was expected of him. Of course, if the Emperor had kept Count Dooku versus going with Darth Vader, he likely would have survived the coming rebellion. Just a thought.

So, the lesson here, kiddies, is to empower your teams to own their products and you might just be surpirsed at what they can turn out.**

** Please reference previous notes on A-B-C players, you don't give a 12 year old the keys to the porsche.