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Dan Donahue

Musician. Traveler. Programmer.

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I've seen a few articles recently of companies who have realized that management does more harm than good. I figured I'd share.

The most recent was from one of the founders of a company called Treehouse (http://ryancarson.com/post/61562761297/no-managers-why-we-removed-bosses-at-treehouse). And it's the start of a series if you decide you want to follow the posts. But basically, they realized that as their company grew and the number of managers grew they saw more rumors, politics and morale problems. They realized that what drives people is not performance reviews and being pushed by managers - people naturally want to do good work.

This is not a new concept. Many companies whom developers believe to be utopian have done the same - GitHub, Valve, etc.

Along the same lines, a video is referenced in that blog post that I'd watched a few years ago called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc). It's an incredible video - definitely worth the 10 minutes. It talks about how people naturally want to do good work and want freedom moreso than monetary gains or other carrots on a stick:

Here's a post by Zach Holman of Github about their setup and lack of managers: http://zachholman.com/posts/scaling-github-employees

And you want a testament to Github's strong focus on a happy work environment? Check no further than this tweet: https://twitter.com/holman/status/303576839132164097

In case you don't feel like clicking the link, let me just copy the body of the tweet:

"GitHub hit the 150 employee mark this morning (2/28/13). About ? are remote. Never had anyone quit. Worrying about how your company works pays off."

150 employees!!! Not one person has EVER quit. Let that sink in for a minute. That's 3x the size of the office where I work and we have six managers!!!!

Now granted, GitHub is an outlier. And they're in a unique situation - all companies are. At the same time, with a story that compelling, it's definitely worth taking a look at how they work and seeing what may or may not work for your company. They make that information very avaialble - their employees blog about it and speak at conferences about it. At the very least, the overarching theme of paying CLOSE attention to the way your company works with an eye towards changing things that don't work is something every company should be doing.

Lastly - I found this in my twitter timeline this morning: http://www.leanblog.org/2011/04/podcast-117-samuel-a-culbert-get-rid-of-the-performance-review/

It's a podcast about getting rid of the performance review. I couldn't agree more. Before my office recently moved to six managers, we had one. The organizational flatness was actually one of the big motivators of me accepting the position. Since all of the new managers have been added, I was asked "when all the developers were being managed by one person, didn't it bother you that your manager was stretched too thin about had no visibility into your performance vs. the other developers?" And I replied "not in the slightest". Not worrying about that means I can worry about getting real work done - the code I get paid (and quite enjoy) to write. And solving the technical and domain problems. That's what drives me. I believe that's what drives most people - at least developers.

Thought workers make up more and more of the workforce these days. It's worth thinking about whether the old school methods of management and career pathing make sense in this new workplace.