On being a –insert title here–

The last five years I have had the privilege of having jobs with awesome titles like “Front end architect” and I was even at one point a CTO. Being in such positions enables you to have the impact to see ideas materialize. You also have impact on how others do their job.

About two years ago I became the leader of the front-end core team at Finn.no after having been the front-end architect (the company decided to remove the architect role). It was perhaps “a step down” in terms of status and things, but it was several steps up in terms of fun and learning. I got to feel a lot of the pains I had seen as an architect. I thought that I had a pretty good idea of how things worked while being The Architect. I was wrong.

Having spent two years in The Trenches I see the ever widening gap between those doing tasks and those who lead through middle managers I’m all company that continued to grow. I know you need to have a different perspective as you move upwards in an organization. However the problem comes when the people in these positions try to “do what’s best” for those doing the job.
If you haven’t spent time on a team doing actual work for more than two years. You should be disqualified from making decisions on how they should work. You should realize you’re no longer qualified. This is what I have learned these years being a team leader.

I see this most clearly when we reorganize or have some initiative come from the managers. They will structure efforts according to their world view. Which is no longer in touch with reality of how teams work. They will follow corporate matrixes that make no sense at the bottom level. Create boundaries and silos which only exist in the organization charts. At the team level there is no us vs them. There’s only “how the fuck do we survive this shit”. Teams need to collaborate relentlessly with whoever has the information, skills or decision making power to get a task done. Teams don’t have the luxury of leaning on corporate structures, they just need to get stuff done to provide end user value.

I urge everyone leading through middle managers to step down for a month or two. Spend time doing actual work at a team level. You will learn to see things from a different perspective. You will learn what you thought was.tru to be untrue. You will also be a much better leader after doing this.

I wish I knew this back when I was in high places. I will try not to make this mistake again. I apologize to all those I have wrongfully micro managed or forced to do stupid things.

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