Recently a friend of mine on (who wishes to remain unamed) was lamenting the fact that his manager wanted a list of the tasks he was to perform each day, and a second list of what tasks actually got accomplished. While I could talk about getting treated like an adult and being left alone to get you work done, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to track stuff like that. I track it for myself. The issue is that the manager wanted it all put in one long email each day.

My question was, ‘Why email?’ There are lots of tools for this type of thing that are much better suited, even built for it. Well it would seem that the manager wanted to use the ERP system.

I’ve certainly heard the acronym passed around, but I had no idea what it really meant. So we look it up on WikiPedia.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems integrate internal and external management information across an entire organization, embracing finance/accounting, manufacturing, sales and service, customer relationship management, etc.

WTF does that mean??? Sure has a lot of smart sounding words. I’m still no closer to knowing what an ERP is.

I can only assume that this ERP system is the easiest thing for the manager to use, but the managers job isn’t (at least it shouldn’t be) to find the easiest tool for him to get his job done. The job of any manager should be to make sure the people he manages have the best tools and easiest time to get their job done. In this case he should be getting them to use a project management tool like Pivotal Tracker. When the tasks for a week don’t get done he can ask for an update on why they didn’t get done.

One likely scenario is that little tasks like attending meetings and writing long emails to management are getting in the way of getting some coding done. That’s another thing that managers of programmers overlook, they ask you to attend a meeting but also assume you can get all the same amount of work done.

Second, programmers are notoriously bad time estimators. We all think that we can find the solution instantly. It’s ony when we get our feet held to the fire a bit that we can come up with better ways to estimate things. This is why what the manager is doing is a good thing. Real data on what is supposed to get done and what is really getting done can help discover issues in the business that need to be addressed. Like needing to comb through thousands of lines of code for a single change, and the code is not in version control, and the change may or may not have been made.

I have a feeling little of the estimated work got done that day.

Any manager should be required to read the Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule monthly. They should be required to let the programmers they manage work on the Maker’s Schedule and work as hard as possible not to interrupt it.

Pretty much all managers are way too busy trying to look good to the person above them. They don’t really want to make changes in how things work to allow their subordinates to be more efficient.

Photo by: kwl