February 15, 2010

Thoughts on micro-management

“Keep it Simple, Stupid. Don’t you really love to hear it? K.I.S.S. To me, that often leads to L.O.V.E. – Leave Out Virtually Everything – so that you’re not allowed to be creative or to add something to the bands music because you’re the lowly drummer – the lowly timekeeper. Seems to me what we should be looking for is M.U.S.I.C. – Make Up Something Interesting and Complementary.”Neil Peart – “A Work In Progress” (2002)

As engineers (or designers, or drummers), we create something in our heads. In our vision, it is perfect and holy in all ways. Then we translate it into the real / virtual world. During that translation, things get lost or adapted to the limitations of the world. So it will be defective by definition. After doing it many times, we get used to those losses and learn to adapt our visions better to the limitations imposed by the real world, therefore becoming better at what we do.

Another thing is when you take your idea and explain it to another person. It gets translated to words (mistakes will be made), and then into another vision in the other persons head (depending on how well he understood your words). That’s two layers of translation.

What micro-management does is perform 3 layers of translation (from the perfect vision into real world), as it’s first transferred to another person, and then to the world. The end result is that the visionary will blame the implementer for not implementing his vision correctly, while in fact this was merely a result of things getting lost in translation.

It is nearly impossible to translate a vision into the real world without data loss with 1-layer (the visionary implements it), yet micro-management has the hidden assumption that it’s possible to do with three translation layers.

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Programming