Last march, Australian cricket team was in doldrums. They had been destroyed by an inexperienced Indian team and the news broke out that there was indiscipline in the team. Several players including Shane Watson were sent back home for not completing “homework”. I had written about the problems in my post – http://bigfatbooksinapage.com/2013/03/13/what-is-wrong-with-the-australian-cricket-team/
In December , they swept away England in the ashes series with a convincing whitewash. So, what changed?
I had posted saying that the real problem was the lack of trust between the team and the management. Due to this there were some really stupid processes that were implemented in the team which further disgruntled the true blue cricketers in the team. Many of them chose to ignore the “homework” and other processes as they really didn’t believe in it.
Australian cricket Board recognized this issue and replaced the coach with a cricketer with pedigree – Darren Lehman. I am pretty sure he would have removed these processes of filling up “health form” every day. If I have to guess, he would have replaced it with having open and frank discussions. Being an international cricketer himself, he would understand the psyche of all the players and deal with them individually. This approach made playing fun again with no apparent process in place. Many of the players including Shane Watson credited the coach for the whitewash. – http://www.espncricinfo.com/the-ashes-2013-14/content/story/707537.html
In fact, if I look back on some of the examples of good coaches, I can recall names like John Wright, Gary Kirsten, Andy Flower . All great international cricketers in their own time. So, my theory is that only international cricketers can understand and gain respect of their team and hence work well.
So, what lessons does this hold for the software world? I have seen many of the companies operate similar to how Mickey Arthur operated the Australian cricket team. Many managers do not understand the nature of work and bring in processes that to a good Engineer seem like stupidity. In case of Australian team, the players had no choice but to protest. In case of engineers, they just leave. Hence, the problem in the software world is not exposed and is treated as an industry wide problem of “Attrition”.
I agree with Paul Graham( of Y – Combinator fame) who had blogged that only a programmer can manage a programmer well. If I look back on my own career, this holds good. A good manager always seemed to be a developer for at least 6-7 years before shifting to management side of things.
What do you think? Have you seen good managers of developers who were not programmers themselves? DO comment!