The self-defeating effects of micro-management

I started drafting a blog post about the self-defeating effects of micro-management when I came across this interview response (from Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz) which sums it up perfectly:

What classic mistakes do you see managers making over and over?

“Setting a goal is one thing. Telling people how to do it step-by-step is another thing. That’s what happens especially with new managers. They not only tell the result that’s supposed to happen but they also tell them how to do it, which is such an insult. People just friggin’ shut down–I guess I’m not going to do it well enough. I’ll just wait to have you tell me how to do it.”

(via Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz: “I’m Just a Manager”.)

I’ve seen teams “shut down” for this exact reason, and the result is a loss for everyone.

When faced with continual “managerial vetoes” and micro-management, teams stop delivering the value they are capable of. They no longer seek the best solutions — they no longer listen to their customers. By not delegating and trusting their team, these managers have created more work for themselves! And the odds are pretty good that whatever comes out of this process will be sub-par.

The idea raises an interesting perspective on the evaluation of new products and services: If the solution is sub-par, was it for lack of ability on the part of the implementation team? Or was it lack of ability on the part of their management?

On a related note, I highly recommend
The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker if you happen to be new to management (or, in this case, have under-performing teams.) “Reflections on Management: How to Manage Your Software Projects, Your Teams, Your Boss, and Yourself” by Watts Humphrey has some nice views on this issue as well.

“Fun example of programming language sc…

“Fun example of programming language scope” is only “fun” for a certain type of geek; But I like programming examples that help explain how your code is interpreted, particularly if the lesson can help prevent a certain class of bug.

Now that you’re expecting a scope puzzle, what will the following JavaScript print? (Ignoring the line numbers, of course, which are here to aid in discussion.)

 1:  var foo = 1;
 3:  function bar1() {
 4:   print("A: " + foo );
 5:  }
 7:  function bar2() {
 8:   print("B: " + foo );
 9:   var foo = 2;
10:   print("C: " + foo );
11:  }
13:  function bar3() {
14:    print("D: " + foo );
15:    eval("var foo = 2;")
16:    print("E: " + foo );
17:  }
19:  bar1();
20:  bar2();
21:  bar3();


No peeking…



A: 1
B: undefined
C: 2
D: 1
E: 2


“A” is easy. Since foo is a “free variable” (i.e., not defined within function bar1), the interpreter goes up the scope chain, and finds the global foo, defined on line 1.

For bar2, “C: 2” is obvious — it’s “B: undefined” that lets you in on the magic under the hood. You sort of expect to see “B: 1” (or a compiler error.) However, JavaScript interpreters scan-ahead, searching for variable definitions (e.g., var statements) when parsing a code block. The interpreter sees/re-writes bar2 like this:

 1:  function bar2() {
 2:    var foo;
 3:    print("B: " + foo );
 4:    foo = 2;
 5:    print("C: " + foo );
 6:  }

With that definition, “B: undefined” makes perfect sense.

To short-circuit the magic, bar3 uses eval() to do it’s trickery. At line 14, foo still points to the global foo, much like in bar1; However, the eval statement on line 15 modifies the local scope, introducing a new, local foo. By line 16, “E: 2” is using the newly introduced foo.


The lesson: Even though JavaScript allows you to declare variables at any point within a block, putting your var statements at the beginning of the block can help eliminate scope confusion around whether an inner- or outer-closure contains the correct value.


Bonus Question

Is JavaScript’s var a let or let*? It’s easy to find out using the following:

 1:  var x = 2, y = 3, z = x + y;
 2:  print(z);

Is this legal? Will it print ‘5’?

[Update: 2010/09/21: If you liked this, you’ll also enjoy “JavaScript Scoping and Hoisting“.]

Great quote on the value of being a good client

“Clients who are easy to work with … don’t just get our best work. They also get the lowest invoices, because we can work efficiently and don’t have to fight our way through the process.”

The article is about working with Graphic Designers, but it applies equally well to technology or strategy engagements.

via “10 Secret Code Phrases to Get What You Want from Your Graphic Designer“.