Thursday, December 12, 2019

Time-tracking tyranny

Why do corporations bestow so much power into middle management?

In the age of agility and increased productivity, it makes no sense to have so much leverage in the hands of non-productive people.

In my point of view, if you have a team full of productive folks, for example, in a software company, a bunch of software engineers and programmers, you will eventually produce something usable. But if you assemble a team only with managers, that have no idea on how to write code, you will never be able to produce anything.

Of course I accept that with good management we can produce something maybe faster, maybe better, but still, who writes the code is who is producing the solution, not the manager enabling it. So it makes no sense to me that so much power resides in middle management.

Middle management sits a filter layer between the executives and sponsors. When AI, machine learning, pervasive data analysis tools were not available, it's understandable that we need this filter, so the executives can get a grasp of is going on at the ground level.

Today this middle management filter is just distorting the view of what happens on the ground with their personal biases and lack of technical knowledge.

We lose agility, stifle innovation and inhibit the flow of information. Middle management act as bottleneck of collaboration, with personal insecurities, their anxiety into the power play of corporate politics and their need to be "in the know", to be copied in all communications, to be invited to all meetings....

Here is where timesheets come in as a torture mechanism impinged on the actual workers. Every single corporation I worked for puts so much importance on employees filling timesheets and it looks like the world is going to crumble if we don't do so ahead of time all the time.

Funny thing is that the time workers put into their jobs can be extracted from their actions publicized in other tools of the company: emails, calendar entries, meeting participation, source code commits, product deployments, browsing activity, network activity... Corporations have plenty of surveillance tools in place that can precisely identify when and where an employee have been all the time. If it is a legal requirement that the employee acknowledges the time worked, why not produce the time sheet with the surveillance information, using certain guidelines, like certain workers are not entitled to overtime, etc, and present this pre-filled timesheets to the employees for their approval. Machine learning algorithms can be used to make predictions for future entries if there is a need to estimate future time that will be spent on a product for planning purposes.

The same way corporations got rid of a whole slew of secretaries, phone operators, office clerks, by automating tasks, empowering other workers with smarter tools, I think it's now the time to re-think the need for middle managers.