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Leaders Aren't Being Made At Tech Firms 135

theodp writes "In this article Vivek Wadhwa laments that short shrift is paid to management training these days at many high-tech firms. You can't be born with the skills needed to plan projects, adhere to EEOC guidelines, prepare budgets and manage finances, or to know the intricacies of business and IP law, says Wadhwa. All this has to be learned. Stepping up to address the problems of 'engineering without leadership,' which may include morale problems, missed deadlines, customer-support disasters, and high turnover, are programs like UC Berkeley's Engineering Leadership Program and Duke's Masters of Engineering Management Program, which aim to teach product management, entrepreneurial thinking, leadership, finance, team building, business management, and motivation to techies."
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Leaders Aren't Being Made At Tech Firms

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  • MBA's (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ProfBooty ( 172603 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @08:16AM (#33480892)

    Wasn't this what MBA's were originally intended for? Training engineers to be managers?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ironhandx ( 1762146 )

      You're making a case here that MBAs are actually supposed to have a purpose besides attempting to further their own career and screwing over anyone and everyone in their path to do so. Said case does not exist. An MBA for training focuses almost entirely on skills required for those two above goals, there is no technical skill imparted and no technical skills tested. Therefore your MBA's come out of their programs with very little value for actually knowing something about the jobs of the people they are ma

      • Re:MBA's (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Sunday September 05, 2010 @08:58AM (#33481000) Journal

        Careful with the broad brush, there. I've met MBAs who were well-trained to run a business, and I've met others who just got their ticket punched from a "name brand" school who were somewhat worse than useless.


        • MBAs at Apple. (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          John, what was the background of the good MBAs? Were they originally engineers or scientists by training, who took up management later? Or was their original training in a field like commerce, business or economics?

          Also, I know you worked for some time at Apple. Clearly, based on their recent success, Apple is currently a well-managed company. How prevalent are MBAs within the management hierarchy there?

        • Re:MBA's (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Ironhandx ( 1762146 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @09:27AM (#33481066)

          Careful with the broad brush, there. I've met MBAs who were well-trained to run a business, and I've met others who just got their ticket punched from a "name brand" school who were somewhat worse than useless.


          I haven't met any of those people. The good MBAs that I HAVE seen have an MBA pretty much as an afterthought. They were already good managers that came up from a different background. Engineering, IT, something like that.

          The rest can often negotiate well and make decent business decisions but the majority of the problem with them is they think management is everything and that they don't have to listen to their employees, even when the employees are saying "Listen, theres a bridge up ahead thats only half done. At the rate you're going, when you get to it, you're going to smash into the cliff wall on the opposite side of the gap"

          Often the MBAs will feel their authority is being threatened by something like that as well because in a good amount of cases their underlings are smarter than they are, if not as well trained in powerpoint. In this case the MBA over reacts to something small that someone brings to their attention, and next time it just doesn't get brought to their attention, then the MBA blames worker X and moves up the ranks.

          I've met an MBA who moved up the ranks at a fairly large corporation this way, he wasn't at the top at that point, but very close to it and by all indicators going to get it when the opportunity arose. He knew almost nothing about his companies product. I don't mean knowing technical details, though at that point he should have been able to answer a few technical questions well enough to at least satisfy the average joe, but basic functions of the product.

          The CEO of that company on the other hand had a technical background and could answer almost anything you wanted to know, and that is largely responsible for its success. I'm shorting stock in the company if I hear he's leaving.

          There are outliers of course, I think I may have met one a year or so ago but its too early in his career to tell. The SNR is just so bad that I haven't met the folks you are talking about.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by BitZtream ( 692029 )

            I'm going to guess that you're a useless MBA trying real hard to justify your existence from the sound of your post.

            • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

              Come on now. You really think an MBA could successfully navigate the web, register, read text thats more than a few words long and post a reply on slashdot?

              I think you're being generous.

              • Why yes, Cheryl will get that for you ASAP! Meanwhile, how would you like to explore the second derivative of the market curve in a mutually beneficial relationship?


                The best MBA's find a scary way of having their Mumbo Jumbo actually mean something, then take the best side of the deal before you can wipe away the smoke. In the above example, Tech is an example of a lurching industry that alternates explosive growth and eerie stalls.

                • Yes , i recognize that . The scary people is some people actually take them seriously.
                  Which is hard for me , because i just can't stop laughing when someone goes on like that.

              • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

                by Anonymous Coward
                Come on now. You really think an MBA could successfully navigate the web, register, read text thats more than a few words long and post a reply on slashdot?

                I think you're being generous.

                There's a certain unintentional irony in your comment when you consider the number of people here who post on subjects that they know nothing about, along with the number of moderators who will happily mod those posts right up because they assume the poster has a clue.
      • Yea us engineers with our undergrad degrees with are detailed focus on our particular sub component on our product, with minimal human interaction. Makes us that much more qualified to operate a complex organization with many people where we need to look at the big picture and insure the experts in areas are on track.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Americano ( 920576 )

          You are correct, sir! It just requires a few all-nighters hacking on the org chart, dintchoo know?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by kdemetter ( 965669 )

          Well , with the appropriate training , they can certainly become good managers.

          The idea that your have to be an MBA in order to be able to manage something , is ridiculous.
          There are a few management skills you need to learn , but most of it is build up from experience.

          You are not defined by your studies . You are defined by what you want to accomplish.

      • Generally, people that exclusively go for their MBA from a business degree will in fact be exactly as you say, with few exceptions. You won't get anything out of an MBA unless you come from a background that can appreciate what they teach you. My close friend has his MBA from a Finance focus, and hes pretty smart. He is the first to admit how much of a joke 90 percent of the people taking the degree were. Maybe hes just an asshole though ;) .
      • An MBA for training focuses almost entirely on skills required for those two above goals, there is no technical skill imparted and no technical skills tested.

        Why would there be? That's what your first/bachelors degree is for.

    • Re:MBA's (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @08:58AM (#33480998)

      Not for training engineers to be managers. But to make strong full company leaders. What went wrong was most MBAs went into finance or consulting, and not into upper mid level management. Because of this the MBA gets a bad name. Have gone threw an MBA myself at least at my college (that focuses on making professionals and not convince them to go into money grubbing) I found it was actually quite useful. And gives me a wider perpective of the business.

        While my MBA class has a lot of engineers and IT people it also has a lot of finance people. These degrees are a little more focused then the MBA which is a good thing too. As a masters is a 2 year degree and not enough time to cover everything.

      • Re:MBA's (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @09:12AM (#33481028)
        Or perhaps we ought to go back to the system where you didn't need extra letters behind your name to get a promotion. Just evidence that you could do your job and the next one up. That's ultimately where we went wrong. No MBA or degree program in and of itself is a replacement for industry experience and knowledge. The fact that people see an MBA and assume that a person has any knowledge or capability at all on that basis is extremely terrifying to me. The evidence I've seen over the last decade or so is that it would be wise to put those applicants to the bottom of the pile if we're doing anything without a full thorough investigation.

        The fact that businesses so routinely run themselves out of business and do great harm to themselves with ill conceived business strategies ought to be evidence that perhaps something is going horribly, horribly wrong as the status quo at business school.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jellomizer ( 103300 )

          Actually a lot of MBA don't flaunt it. I myself worked for an MBA not to help me get promoted per say. But it makes it easier as it says I want to be promoted and I am serious about it and it makes sure I am not just type casted as a techie, but that I have other ambitions in life. There ae a lot of people who don't want to be managers that is fine and good. But how to weed out the ones you should put on a management track and the ones on a different track. Companies of any signigant size finding talent wi

        • honesty and wisdom (Score:4, Insightful)

          by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> on Sunday September 05, 2010 @11:52AM (#33481642) Journal

          Once again, I'm seeing a focus on technical competence, and the usual ragging on managers who don't know anything that way. And also on competence in the technical aspects of business such as budgeting and knowing the ropes of IP law.

          Managers and financial wizards are worse than useless if they are damned fools and aren't honest. They think they're telling little white lies that don't cause any harm when they mislead investors and employees. And they have funny ideas about how to motivate people. They want everyone on hot seats, all the time, thinking that's how to get the most out of people. They prowl around with the micromanagement, thinking that's how they're going to ferret out the slackers, and making it so the rest won't dare slack. They treat underlings like mushrooms, in an insulting, patronizing manner, not seeing how that can be self-fulfilling, and how it can blow back at them. As if that's not bad enough, they gratuitously indulge their fears, jealousies, petty spitefulnesses, bullying ways, and dominance gaming on the employees they've done all they can to make captive.

          Where is the "leadership" training that covers such issues? Are people just supposed to instinctively know not to treat with their fellows so? I've seen enough of that kind of foolishness in RL to know it cannot be just swept under the rug.

          • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @12:53PM (#33481958)
            In my experience, leadership isn't something which can be taught, anymore than integrity and strength can. Sure you can help somebody develop those skills, but at the end of the day, it comes from someplace within.

            People tend to follow me for the simple reason that I'm not scared of really anything, but haven't lost my respect for the dangers out there. I'm willing to take responsibility for the people that are following my orders and willing to tell people to screw off when I have the need to do so.

            The absolute worst thing that a leader can do is flip flop and fold on a subordinate following orders.

            The technical skills can all be taught, pretty much anybody willing to put in the time and effort can learn them, same goes for the laws applicable to the situation.
            • Leaders are born, not made? Even if that's so, we should be able to test for desirable behavior, shouldn't we? So that we know who not to put in leadership positions? If that is, we can determine and agree on just what behavior is desirable, and I think that can be done. For instance, most everyone would agree treachery is not wanted in a leader. Then there's the huge difficulty of believing in and then following the recommendations. And in getting proud leadership candidates to submit to the indignit

        • Isn't there a 3 year minimum period of experience required before you will even be considered for an MBA program? Perhaps 3 years isn't enough? Maybe MBAs should be limited to Engineers or a technical field.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Hognoxious ( 631665 )

            In Europe it would be rare to get admitted to any reputable MBA course without at least two years of serious work experience. However in the US the majority of MBA students come straight from their first degree. I believe a one year gap (seems like a token to me) is increasing in popularity - but still rare.

            • However in the US the majority of MBA students come straight from their first degree.

              Where do you get this from? The MBA programs I've checked will give a class profile, and usually their students are listed as being in their late 20s or in their 30s, or as having five or six years of work experience.

              (For reference, this is in Pennsylvania, so I'm talking about schools like Arcadia, Penn State at Great Valley, Villanova, etc.)

              Having just completed my MBA, the average age in my class was 28, I think from memory. I estimate the youngest person in the class had four or five years of work exper

          • Isn't there a 3 year minimum period of experience required before you will even be considered for an MBA program? Perhaps 3 years isn't enough? Maybe MBAs should be limited to Engineers or a technical field.

            Good MBA programs (weekend, part-time and executive) have work requirements (whether you are a nurse, teacher or engineer). And by "work requirements", it is usually meant "x years of work in some form of management or team lead position." I would suspect these are aligned to the original spirit of what the MBA program was supposed to be. The best MBA holders have had 5+ years of experience in engineering management (on top of God knows how many other years of engineering.)

        • by homer_s ( 799572 )
          Or perhaps we ought

          Who's "we"? There are millions of companies - find one that works the way you want it to. If you don't, start one.
          • Good luck getting any funding like that. One of the big challenges of running a business competently is that it's really hard to get funding like that. Investors for the most part flock to companies like Walmart, which despite losing it's edge on efficiency is still the darling of Wall street, even as it's competitive edge wanes and it faces increased resistance from neighborhoods and astronomical labor costs.

            Which is sort of the point, a few companies isn't enough to change the inertia of the market, it
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by SecurityGuy ( 217807 )

          I wish I could +6 you. This is so true. Managers are afraid to promote on merit because it's hard and risks confrontation with the people you have to tell don't make the grade. It's the right thing to do, but they often don't, and are often not rewarded for doing so. As a result, we get corporations who reward measurable things which don't necessarily contribute to the company. Having an MBA by itself should not get you more money or a better title. Consistently applying the information, practices, st

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          No MBA or degree program in and of itself is a replacement for industry experience and knowledge

          While I tend to agree with you when it comes to technical degrees, the problem with this belief is that it's often accompanied by the belief that managing people, businesses, and projects is a simple process. The fact is that there are a set of accepted practices -- things proven to work over many years. And it's not something that a company can afford to have you pick up along the way with enough time and experience -- they need those skills now, not after a decade of trial and error. And if you come on

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        The purpose of an MBA course is not to make strong leaders... or at least it shouldn't aspire to be. Looking at the curriculum, most of what it does is teach business administration tools and skills. Leadership skills? Not really. The sad thing is that a lot of MBA graduates do precisely that: they go into middle and upper management, often with little or no real experience at leading.

        Managers, not MBAs [] offers a good insight into the MBA program and into all the things wrong with it today. The thing
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Have gone threw an MBA myself at least at my college

        Oh yeah? Which college?

      • Have gone threw an MBA myself...

        The irony, it burns!

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wasn't this what MBA's were originally intended for? Training engineers to be managers?

      I've never met a good engineer who even wanted to be a manager. I've met many people with engineering degrees who were hoping to be king of the nerd-pen though. MBAs have become essentially meaningless, since you can't be in a tech company and not understand tech, even if you're a suit. This appears to be some way of appealing to that belief.

      The problem is the same as always, you can't stay on top of tech if you're not do

  • It's not necessary (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Sociopathy ftw!

  • Why should a company care? Someone else in your position is going to grad school right now and can fill it when needed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by barzok ( 26681 )

      This is it. Why promote from within when you can hire someone to be an asshole manager from outside the company?

      • The best assholes come from outside. Form small groups. Discuss.


        Students were told that they could be either assholes or incompetents, but not both; however, every time I repeat this, someone says he has a counterexample.

    • by lalena ( 1221394 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @09:00AM (#33481004) Homepage
      I agree. Computer technology changes every 5 years and we are now expected to keep pace with the latest technologies on our own time, I think the same is expected with management skills. In a sense, these skills are easier to develop because the required skills aren't changing as fast.

      With the computer skills, I have to learn the new technologies on my own if they aren't being used at work yet. With management/leadership skills (project planning, budgets, IP law...), they are obviously being used at every company and there are more chances to learn (insert bad management joke here).

      Most good managers are overworked and there are opportunities for on the job training. Do some research, read some books, and then ask your boss to take one thing off of his plate. Start small and build from there. Note: A bad boss will be unwilling to give up responsibility for fear of you showing him up and taking his job. A good manager/leader will is interested in developing those under him and realizes that you doing a good job reflects well on both of you. A good manager doesn't have to worry about you taking his job. He should be moving up (not sideways) anyway.

      Some good places to start training are:
      1) Agile development: By definition, SCRUM masters come from the development team, not the business/management team. This is a good intro to management & leadership skills, and the Sprint Demos give you good opportunity to communicate with the business and management teams.
      2) Scheduling: In a non agile environment, this means owning the Pert chart. In agile, it might mean helping prioritize the product backlog and contributing to ROM estimates.
      3) Customer Satisfaction: Sometimes product maintenance (bug fixes) can involve lots of customer interaction. Making unhappy customers happy is a useful skill that will get you noticed.
      4) IP Law: Reviewing existing patents for conflicts is a boring job. Sometimes the legal team creates a huge list of patents where half of them can be dismissed right off the bat. Maybe you can take a first pass at the patent review and just summarize your thoughts in an Excel spreadsheet with High/Medium/Low priorities so that other managers can focus on the high priority ones first. This will give you insight into the whole process and a foot in the door.
      5) Interviewing: Any potential candidate should be reviewed by multiple people. Not just the boss. Again, read some books and do some research on good interviewing techniques first. Then see if you can participate in interviewing candidates. This area can be tricky because your interviewing style might conflict with your managers. He may not like your style, but that doesn't mean you are wrong. You will probably handle the interview differently depending on whether you are doing it with your boss or not. I suggest the 5 Why's style here. As a new interviewer, your opinion will matter less. If you use the 5 Why's then you will have much more detailed facts on why the candidate did what he did in a certain situation - your comments will be based less on your opinion and more about what you got the candidate to say. During the candidate review after the interview, someone may bring up a scenario that the candidate discussed and say he did the right thing. You will be able to go 3 levels deeper into the decision process used by the candidate to verify if this is actually true.

      These are good places to start. I don't think you will get much finance/budget exposure or deal with any equal opportunity issues if you are not a manager. On the leadership side, there are always changes to exercise your skills as a mentor and leader without having the official title. This is just part of doing your job.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lalena ( 1221394 )
        Followup - Forgot to add the most important part.

        You can take work off your manager's plate, but you can't let it impact your main job. You need to get the same amount of work done with the added responsibilities. This is why you need to start small and learn one skill at a time.
  • Never personally met anyone with an MBA who knew their ass from their elbow about engineering. Or had an agenda
    • Next week on how to be an asshole. Well, the point was, I've never met anyone with an MBA on their business card who was any bloody use.
    • Are you kidding? Agendas, missions statements, memos, they do it all! Or did you mean a clear and compelling vision of the direction a project should be moving? Hmmm, maybe you're right.
    • Really? Huh. Wish I could introduce you to one of my co-workers and recent MBA classmate - we went through the same course together. He happens to have a Master's in Engineering from one of the top engineering schools in the country and several years of work experience in Electrical Engineering working on problems which he gets right or else 50 million people lose power. No, I'm not making that number up.

      Never mind - enjoy your cynical little private and inaccurate anecdotal world view. Judging by the comme

  • I'm surprised only 89% of corporate executives at the companies they interviewed indicated they felt corporate leadership was increasingly important at their firm. I guess for the other 11% their decisions are already maximally important.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards ( 940851 )
      Actually those 11% are too busy trying to figure out how to loot the Picasso from their office without people noticing before crashing the entire business and collecting a gold parachute to send the jobs overseas to care about corporate leadership.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    While they're at it, perhaps they can teach managers on how to hire competent technical people.

    • In some ways it would be nice if tech folk could earn "belts" or titles like in the martial arts world. Much easier to say you have a 3rd Degree Black Belt in Wado Ryu and have folk understand than to say you have a BS in Computer Science and 10 years experience in Perl.

      Or maybe I just want to be called a "Script Master" really bad. Careful, I hear that guy "Bashes" really hard!

  • How does this really compare to companies that are not considered "High-tech?" Are those companies spending a lot more money and time on training management, or is it just that most MBA-type programs are geared towards that type of management role?
    I know several retired engineers who became managers in companies that invested in their training throughout their career. I'd be curious to see statistics on how that's changed over the years. It could be that high-tech companies are just more likely to reflect
  • by srothroc ( 733160 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @08:50AM (#33480976) Homepage
    And this is why tech types always complain about their managers -- none of their own are getting the training they need to rise up and manage. Frankly, tech types cast such a stigma on management that the number of people who actually want to do that is very small, which is a major mistake.
    • I doubt the there are very few tech people who want to manage. Sure most of us think that the Dilbert stereotypes on management have more than a grain of truth, but the reality is that tech has a culture of moving up or moving out. Experienced programmers are typically asked to lead teams, then manage projects, relationships with vendors, etc. The problem tech people face is different -- getting management positions outside the tech department. When it comes to becoming a CEO, it is much better to be in Sa
    • Tech types cast such a stigma on management that the number of people who actually want to do that is very small. And this is why tech types always complain about their managers -- none of their own are getting the training they need to rise up and manage.


  • Leaders (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Leaders! pft! My place is like a Dilbert comic
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur turned academic

    Good to know this guy couldn't cut it as an entrepreneur, now he's teaching all his best tricks to anybody who is stupid enough to cough up the tuition fees.

    Vivek Wadhwa Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University

    I'm sure there is no conflict of interests and he is being absolutely objective in his desire to promote his excellent courses.

  • Whats this "these days" quote? Confusing "it is and always has been bad" with "it must have been better in the good ole days"?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 05, 2010 @09:28AM (#33481068)

      If you were born after 1970, which you likely were, you probably don't realize how much better life and work actually was in America during the 1950s and 1960s. Things were significantly better back then.

      The wage gap between executives, managers and the people actually doing the real work was minimal. It wasn't unusual for a CEO to make a salary that was only twice as much as the salary of the lowest-paid employee. This is what allowed America's middle class to become so strong and wealthy after WWII.

      The general attitude was different, as well. With the standard of living increasing so dramatically for so many people due to hard work, people would go out of their way to do well at their job. Truly good work, rather than bullshitting and deflecting blame, was the key to career advancement. Indeed, successful managers and executives put in a huge amount of effort growing businesses by providing top-notch products and services, while doing what was best for the community as a whole.

      Things really started to tank in the early 1970s. That's when manufacturing started being sent off-shore, mainly to Japan at first, but eventually to Taiwan and then China. Now we see India and Mexico getting involved. The end result was that many people were put out of work, management became more about fucking people over rather than doing a good job or doing the right thing, the quality of manufactured goods became extremely shitty, and the American economy's real growth has stagnated for the past 30 to 40 years.

      • Not among the rich. They pretty much control the money flow through finance from their castles across the US.
  • by Bucc5062 ( 856482 ) <> on Sunday September 05, 2010 @09:24AM (#33481054)

    My God, how did we ever survive, much less built some amazing technology before this great mind discovered we are not "making leaders" today. We are not making leaders, or are the leaders focused in the wrong direction. IBM, HP, Wang, Dec, Microsoft, Apple, yes even Google started small and grew because their "leaders" did not focus on the next month, the next quarter, but on a long term vision of what they wanted their company to be in the market. In my thirty years in this IT industry I know of only two managers that understand that if you manage the people, they will manage the project. The rest managed the budget, the project and never took time to understand the resources they had. Whet these new classes should re-teach is the art of managing people so they become a positive, motived work force and not indentured labor.

    • by hitmark ( 640295 )

      Most of it was made in "blue sky" R&D facilities where nerds ran rampant, and/or on open ended military grants in an effort to fight the red menace. Now neither exist any more, and we are left with companies trying to yet again put a new shine on a old ride. Only problem is that it has been polished so many times they risk rubbing the chrome off the fender.

      Now all leadership do it attempt to hunt that elusive dream of perpetual 3% annual growth. How the hell do you make anything grow by 3% a year contin

      • 3% what the heck are you talking about. 10% at least is needed for growth. 3% is staying at an average rate of inflation. A company that grows at 3% is stagnant.

        Money isn't a pool that just goes away after you spend it. It is spread to person for good and services. The problem with our economy isn't do to lack of money but the fact it isn't moving fast enough.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Antisyzygy ( 1495469 )
          And all the money has been captured by the wealthy, never to be distributed again until they either start spending most of it or it gets re-captured by higher taxes and spent on public projects like our crappy infrastructure.
          • by qbzzt ( 11136 )

            And all the money has been captured by the wealthy, never to be distributed again until they either start spending most of it or it gets re-captured by higher taxes and spent on public projects like our crappy infrastructure.

            Not exactly. Even if the wealthy put the money in the bank, the bank loans it out. Unfortunately, recent practice has been for banks to loan the money out for consumption by the non-wealthy instead of for capital for productive enterprises.

            • Being in debt is not the same as wealth creation. A system primarily based on credit will eventually fail with something similar to what is occurring right now in our economy. When a wealthy person's money is lent out, they still have a right to the exact same amount plus interest from the bank. The net result is that they retain their wealth, but others essentially owe them more money through the banks. Back in the 50's and 60's people could buy houses with savings. Why can't we do that now? Because there
              • The 10 percent wealthiest individuals in the states have 70 percent of the money. This is in stark contrast to post 1950's with it being literally the reverse situation.

                You're saying that the wealthiest 70% had 10% of the money?

                Eeee, we used to dream of having mathematically impossible Gini coefficients. Uphill, both ways. In the snow.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hitmark ( 640295 )


          "Three percent compound growth (generally considered the minimum satisfactory growth rate for a healthy capitalist economy) is becoming less and less feasible to sustain without resort to all manner of fictions (such as those that have characterized asset markets and financial affairs over the last two decades)."

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 )

      It is often when a company goes public. And must answer to the mindless mass called shareholders. After a few years after going public and with technology you will need to change direction. The share holders get nervious and move their money somewhere else. That is why these companies fail.
      When you are small you can focus on one thing. That doesn't take much leadership but when you grow you need leaders especially as your core compenance becomes antiquated like in the tech industry. Why don't we hear much a

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by munitor ( 1632747 )
      What you describe is the difference between leadership and management. You can teach people to manage projects, meet regulations, take care of HR housekeeping, etc., but it's hard to teach leadership (building a shared vision, developing people, personal effectiveness, etc.) unless the student already has the capacity and the drive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rich0 ( 548339 )

      I think the problem is that in IT we're used to building machines, and we build them from parts. Often those parts and the product are software, but it is all the same.

      If I want to upgrade 1000 computers I need 1000 sticks of RAM and 1000 CPUs. Therefore, if I want to program 1000 pieces of software I must need 1000 units of programmers.

      IT leaders lack the ability to assess what they have and work with it. Indeed, "best practices" almost encourage this mentality. What do you deliver? Well, what do the

  • I can think of no faster way to doom a company than using engineers for salesmen, managers etc.. Engineering a product and the packaging that contains it is an endless task when done at its best level. Worse yet, keeping engineers up to date on machinery used in production and fabrication methods, tools, jigs etc. is a crushing burden. What often happens is that engineers get pushed into public relations, sales, and all kinds of nonsense and every tiny bit of that takes away from the job that they

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bobstreo ( 1320787 )

      I can think of a faster way. Take a small established company with a product that people want. Add MBA's until they
      outnumber engineers and designers.

  • Leadership? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @10:39AM (#33481332) Homepage Journal

    adhere to EEOC guidelines, prepare budgets and manage finances, or to know the intricacies of business and IP law

    That's not leadership. That's memorizing a bunch of artificially imposed minituae that is not very interesting. That is a role suited for an assistant trained in law.

    The budget part is relevant, but only to the extent that every human being ought to know how to manage their resources. The rest is suited for an assistant trained in accounting.

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by coryking ( 104614 ) *

      The budget part is relevant, but only to the extent that every human being ought to know how to manage their resources. The rest is suited for an assistant trained in accounting.

      Isn't that the exact same complaint developers and IT folk have about management? That the senior execs don't know C# the language from C# the note?

      What you are saying is that management doesn't need to worry about those scum in accounting—they can treat accounting like a black box were magic goes in and magically record gro

      • We're not talking about knowledge, we're talking about leadership. Any schmuck can acquire knowledge. Leaders are born. Yet the skill must be honed and validated in business school. Otherwise, how can you tell the real leaders from those claiming to be leaders?

        • by dkf ( 304284 )

          Any schmuck can acquire knowledge.

          There's a lot of "any schmucks" out there that provide evidence otherwise. Some, but not all, have MBAs.

        • "Otherwise, how can you tell the real leaders from those claiming to be leaders?"

          But that's obvious, my friend! If someone tells you he is a leader and you believe him, he *is* a leader.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wagadog ( 545179 )

      "'adhere to EEOC guidelines'" is not leadership because it's "memorizing a bunch of artificially imposed minutia that is not very interesting"?

      Well, you're right. Leadership that promotes objectivity and fairness regardless of gender, race, childbearing status or age will simply not have to worry about adherence to EEOC guidelines--because the leader will have made it very clear how people are to be treated and evaluated by both their peers, their reports, and by management.

      Instead of playing "divide and co

      • by nomadic ( 141991 )
        Interestingly, because women, African-Americans, Latinos and particularly Latinas have to be grossly overqualified and between two and three times harder working than their white male counterparts

        Huh? Particularly Latinas? Speaking as a neutral, white male observer, African-Americans, particularly African-American men, have it a hell of a lot harder than any of the other groups you just mentioned.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You're absolutely right. There's a difference between management and leadership, and the skills are generally mutually exclusive. Force a leader to take on management tasks and he will likely be unhappy and not do well. Force a manager to be a leader and you'll end up with a lot of unhappy subordinates.
  • Leadership training has always been a lie. All the theories upon which training was based have been refuted or considered non-trainable. I believe that we will be able to settle for the right leadership training, but how can we do it if we don't even have a consensus on which Group Development theory is right? After all, the role of the leader is that of realizing which stage of group development an organization is and, then, take appropriate measures to burst productivity, either by utilizing a privileged
  • Don't be a total bonehead. Listen to them. Let them do their job.

    Ok, the tongue is in the cheek a little there, but nothing saps my motivation more than being told to do something really stupid. Like the project I'm on ; the code is some amateur coders PhD project, the code quality is utterly excretional, and EVERY engineer working on it that I've asked agrees that we could have thrown the whole thing away and written something superior inside of 6 months.

    Management were told, almost as soon as the external

  • by pandrijeczko ( 588093 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @12:40PM (#33481898)

    I'm in my 40s, as a kid I grew up watching my dad & other male relatives build furniture out of wood, decorate houses, build brick walls, mend washing machines, etc. etc.

    I grew up in a house where I had enough free reign to take stuff apart to see how it worked and try and fix it - yes, sometimes I broke it for good or couldn't get it back together again.

    Then when I got into my teens, I built electronic circuits, learnt to program Z80 CPUs in assembly and took bicycles or mower engines apart to clean and fix them - again, sometimes what I did made it worse.

    Since then, I've spent 30 years in telecoms, computers and IT and done a good job over those years. Not once have I considered entering management, the closest I've ever got is writing and presenting training courses, along with some technical mentoring as necessary.

    It's impossible to be trained as an expert in every piece of hardware, operating system, telecoms principle, etc. that I come across but most of the time I get by using my engineering brain and knowing my limits - so if I need to know something more about something, I ask someone or go read a book. I'm not afraid to tell anyone "I'm sorry, I don't know the answer but give me a day or two and I think I can find one."

    In IT especially, there are a lot of people who are afraid to admit their limitations or even believe themselves to always be right - and on some occasions, I've taken great joy in taking them down a step or two.

    The point is that logic, intuition and self-motivation are disappearing in business - sorry, but as I'm over here in the UK I blame it entirely on American-style management techniques (although we're not blameless for accepting it so readily) where everything is performance and statistically based, and as long as you achieve your targets, it doesn't matter if you can think outside the box or not.

    I know that being a good engineer is not about necessarily having the answer there and then but knowing how to get towards getting the answer in a logical fashion. That is a skill that comes from real-world experience, it cannot be trained into you.

    And whilst I lack management skills, I expect that the same is true for a good manager - leadership & motivation skills are not something you can be taught, they're skills you pick up as you progress through life.

  • I've seen that in the giant service houses like Accenture, Infosys, Cognizant and so on, almost every damn programmer dreams of becoming a 'team lead' or 'assistant project manager' as soon as they've put in 4-5 years in the company. This trend has become all-pervasive and people who really love technical stuff and who want to just keep coding are considered losers. Most of these companies just don't offer growth opportunities in a purely technical sense. Even your manager will tell you, "Congratulations, y

  • Today's colleges and universities are hopelessly out of touch with reality-and the students they graduate are too. My late mentor-a TV pioneer who associated with people named Sarnoff and Garroway, among others once told me that in many cases "schools get in the way of your education". He meant that no 'book' education can teach you "street smarts" and "people smarts"-only experience working with others can teach you this. Now today we have companies who think experience is a BAD thing-and are laying off th
  • It's not about being the smartest, or the best educated, or the greatest designer/engineer. It's about being wise, open-minded, deliberative, charismatic, and decisive. The best managers I've worked for all acknowledged their technological inferiority to the team (the guys who actually did the work), were able to push and drive people to work towards a consensus answer, then employed their passion and charisma to get buy-in from everyone else - and maintain enthusiasm of all parties.

    Leaders are advoca

    • by Newer Guy ( 520108 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @03:21PM (#33482632)
      Agreed! I had a boss who was General Manager of a Boston radio station. He didn't know much about engineering or sales-but he was a great judge of people-and creative people WANTED to work for him! He hired the best people, gave them the tools they needed to do their jobs and then LET THEM! He didn't micromange. He knew that creative people occasionally pushed the barriers and let them-but was always there to pull back gently on their leashes if necessary. I enjoyed working for him-and let me assure you it was hard work. BUT you felt like you were part of a team-and he also shared the credit/spoils with all of the people who worked for him. One summer week the Tall Ships were coming to Boston, and it was my job to not only facilitate a weeks broadcasts from a pier on the waterfront, but also make sure the talent got there for their broadcasts-when half the streets were closed down. So I hired a reliable friend as station driver for the week-dressed in his best suit and with a daily freshly washed and cleaned station Jeep just to drive talent, clients and management back and forth. He had full press credentials so he could drive everywhere and since he kneew the area (and knew how to make friends with the Boston Police officers) got priority treatment from them. At the end of the week my boss told me: "when you came up with this idea I didn't like it, but decided to give you a shot-and it turned out it was one of the best ideas you have ever had". THAT'S the kind of boss he was-he made you feel great!
  • A leader leads, provides "vision," leads by example, has new ideas, defines strategy. People naturally follow leaders.

    A manager produces charts of business statistics, facilitates communication, makes sure that people are behaving, getting to work on time etc. and that the holiday requests are spread out sufficiently to make sure that enough people are working on the project at all times. Managers dish out the work between staff and provide a channel for communication with other teams.

    Managers should not

  • []

    The Boss Is Robotic, and Rolling Up Behind You

    Mobile robots have been used for years by the military and law enforcement, but with falling costs, the next frontiers are the office, the hospital and the home.

  • How hard is it to screw over you employees, over-pay yourself, steal from the company, and fuck your secretary and/or mistress?

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson