Mad Management

During the latter half of my career as an employee, direct supervisors in charge of managing me kept putting me in charge of managing others. They had witnessed consistently high productivity in my work from inception through planning, tracking, coding, documenting, quality assurance and packaging right through to product release and customer support. I guess they hoped that productivity would rub off on their other charges and must have thought I could make that happen. Most never understood my productivity sprang as much from deep satisfaction derived working independently as ability to quickly understand what was required, to independently plan and organize tasks appropriately and then self manage every aspect of the work tasks to achieve specified goals and deliver quality product. In fact, only a few supervisors ever grokked this at all.


I suppose I should feel fortunate to have been managed by those few who did get it since they were so rare. Some of my supervisors were downright loony. One of the looniest of all never had a chance to force me into a supervisory role before I twisted off eight months into the job. He strutted around the office clutching a MENSA coffee cup, thrusting and gesturing with the thing as if it were a weapon . . . or possibly a shield. Whichever, I got the hell away from him and that lousy job as fast as I could only to have the supervisor at my new job at a bank force me into leading a team rather than letting me perform at my best working in solitude.


This tendency of being shoehorned into management positions was another reason I finally made the leap to self employment. In my final job as an employee, I was forced to supervise development of a J2EE-based, multi-tiered rich web application running on a Weblogic app server. My supervisor at that time knew the existing crew was useless as developers go, so I was allowed to hire a few real software engineers to fill the gaps and got lucky enough to convince one especially skilled and diligent young computer science graduate to join in on the fun for a while. The rest of the development team consisted of some real losers, though. One of them was totally worthless. I caught her multiple times reading novels and playing sudoku puzzles on the job and asked my supervisor If I could fire her. Being a state agency, she informed me that firing employees was next to impossible unless they were recent hires and still within the two month probationary period. Good grief.


That supervisor retired about three years after the development phase of the project was successfully completed and the web application was released into production. Disruptive political pressures from a new state engineer appointed by a new governor convinced her it was time for her to retire early. So off she went, leaving me in charge as acting CIO. Holy crap.


Fortunately, my stint in that hellish role lasted only a couple of months before the state engineer hired a new CIO with apparently impressive credentials. Unfortunately, she turned out to be a complete nincompoop and I was growing as sick of the crazy office politics the new state engineer was fomenting as I was the sorry team of so-called developers I was still managing that I decided it was high time to get the hell out of there to start my own company where I could supervise a staff of one: me.


After leaving that job, I found out a few years later that the new CIO–an esteemed Stanford graduate, no less–had burned through more than $1 million trying to get the same lame bunch of lifer state employees I had been forced to supervise to implement a Business Process Management System replacement for the J2EE web application I had supervised development and deployment of (and had been successfully enhancing and supporting in production for more than three years) before her arrival. Discovering none of her remaining staff were anywhere near up to the task of continuing management (much less enhancement) of that system and its web app server, she convinced upper management that a low-code BPMS was the holy grail of information processing and could be rapidly developed to both quickly and economically replace the existing multi-tiered system. The wave of the future, she had touted. No more coding required. Easy peasy. She had been so cocksure of this that she had even blown $300K in taxpayer funds purchasing a hundred BPMS user licenses from Appian BPM several years before they were needed. Stupid (or fishy) decision making by any standard of measure.


I'm so glad I left that job to start my little company. An organization where I could work on creative projects of meaningful, good purpose in blissful solitude. If it had not killed me, I'm convinced that state agency job and its crew of imbeciles would have eventually maimed me for the rest of my life.