The Secrets of Pure Managers, from the Indian Software Industry

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Joseph Koshy > Articles > Humor > Modeling Management > The Secrets of Pure Managers, from the Indian Software Industry

[Author's note: I'm planning a serious article on the broader issues facing the Indian software industry. I'll get around to this after my itch to code abates.

The Secrets of Pure Managers, from the Indian Software Industry

... sometimes you feel that you are living in a nightmare. You bide your time in an organization where you know next to nothing (save a few buzzwords). The people you manage are brighter, more knowledgeable and more energetic than you could hope to be. How does one cope? What is the future of your career? ...

Read on to find answers ...

The disciple and the sage

The disciple went up to Gargi Yagnyavalka and offered the sage the customary salute.

``Teacher'', he asked, ``can you explain to me the secrets of pure managers? I have been a student of the Indian software industry for many years but I am unable to understand the role that pure managers played. My heart is now troubled, and I am unable to sleep at night. I have now begun seeing visions of tessaracts spinning in 4-space and my dreams are full of strings vibrating in Calabi-Yau spaces.''

The sage put down the CD-ROM twirling on his finger and looked at the student over the rims of his spectacles.

``Very well'', said Gargi, looking at the earnest young man in front of him. ``First, let us review some definitions.''

``What is a Pure Manager?''

``A manager who manages a team without having a clue about the work that the team does'', said the novice.

``Good. And what is a deliverable?''

``Something of value to a customer, O Sage'', replied the young man.

``Is a status report a deliverable?''

``No, O sage. A computer cannot execute a status report.''

``And what about a Quality Plan?''

``O sage, a Quality Plan in itself also has little value to the customer.''

``So what is a deliverable, then?'', asked the sage.

``Something the customer can use, to serve his need. A working program, perhaps'', answered the novice.

``Good'', the sage was pleased. ``Now, in a project managed by a Pure Manager, who determines the progress of the project?''

``The people working in the team, O sire'', replied the novice, ``for the pure manager, by definition, cannot determine the correctness of any course of action, since he hath no clue about the merits of one path over the other.''

``So what does the Pure Manager bring to the project team?'', asked the sage.

The disciple was silent. The sage continued, ``Have you spent the necessary hours studying the dynamics of team meetings?''

``Yes, teacher, using our history-scope to peer into the past'', said the novice.

``What have you observed?'', asked the sage.

``I have observed that Pure Managers sit at their desk, masterfully holding their mice, whilst their techies sit hunched up, unsure of themselves, as if ashamed of their nerdiness'', the student replied.

``And what was the nature of the interactions between the team and manager?'', asked the sage.

``The techies were very young and needed frequent reassurance'', said the novice.

``And the Pure Manager provided reassurance?'', asked the sage.

``Yes, teacher, the techies seemed to ascribe great value to his facial expressions.''

The sage was pleased with the students perspicacity. ``This then, is what the Pure Manager brings to the meeting table'', he said. ``Engineers, being unsure of themselves and being inherently driven by logic, seek meaning for their existence in this world. On finding no obvious, undisputed meaning, these youngsters panic, and search for someone to structure their lives for them. The Pure Manager serves to fill in this niche.''

The student was silent for a while. ``Tell me more about the secrets of the Pure Managers'', he asked.

``Very well'', said the sage. ``The only real role for a pure manager is to periodically say Tatha Astu ["so be it" in Sanskrit], to his team members. However, some care has to be exercised in playing this role. These are the guidelines:

  1. The Pure Manager must not say Tatha Astu too often; once in a while, he should look serious and say "No". Doing so will preserve the apparent value of his "Yes".
  2. The Pure Manager should practise every morning on his smile.
  3. The Pure Manager must endeavour to project an all-knowing and sagacious look. A facial expression representing a state midway between constipation and Buddha-like enlightenment has been found to work the best.''

``O Sage,'' said the novice, ``your description reminds me of the priests in my native land.''

Gargi, looked with renewed interest at the young man. ``Indeed. The similarities are deep. Let us compare the two.''

Editor's note: we have presented Gargi's comparision in a convenient tabular form below

Aspect Religion Pure Management
Ritual: visual overload Complicated rituals involving objects being burnt, or manipulated in arbitrary ways Bizarre slides about mergers with competitors (say HP and Compaq)
Ritual: audio overload Atonal chanting of mantras, singing in an extinct language by a choir, and/or enthusiastic, loud, off-key singing by planted members in the congregation Droning presentations full of unfathomable phrases like ``forward looking progress'' and ``synergistic competition''
Apparent Topic Your "next life" or "life in heaven" (without presenting evidence of re-incarnation or of the existence of "heaven") The next business initiative, or the next process improvement (without there being evidence of any initiative, process or improvement in the organization)
Actual statement ``Your life will be meaningful if you do as I say (and give me money)'' ``Your life will be meaningful if you do as I say (and earn my promotion)''

``I still don't understand how it works.'' said the novice.

Gargi, looked at the earnest young man. ``Student, one of the deepest needs of a human being is that the world she perceives be understandable. So when a believer goes to a priest or manager desiring guidance, and gets in return an almost meaningful string of symbols and sounds, the person has two choices:

(a) she has to admit to herself that she has been an idiot to waste her time, or,
(b) she creates her own "meaning" to the string of symbols and sounds she is perceiving.

In most cases, it is option (b) that she settles for. Then since the person now "owns" her private meaning of the symbols she encountered, she becomes even more reluctant to confront reality.''

``Does any meaningless ritual or slide set work then?'', asked the student.

``No, my son'', said the sage, ``there is an art to Pure Management too.''

``First, your religous rituals or company initiatives should be within reach of your target population. For example, cook up rituals that your older believers can do while sitting down, rather than requiring energetic physical activity from them; it is difficult to be religious in the middle of an aerobic workout. At the same time do not make your rituals too easy to perform; so prolong your meetings arbitrarily or schedule them for inconvenient times of the day like 4:00am.''

``Your presentations, meetings or religious rituals need to be almost meaningful, just on the border of making sense. If they are too random, then your believers will catch on to your game. Conversely, if by mistake, you happen give your reportees something with real meaning to do, they will not need you anymore.''

The disciple was silent for a while. ``I now understand why the number of priests in India surged after the IT industry crash of the early 21st century. Thank you, O Sage, for your time.''

Gargi smiled, and went back to spinning his CD-ROM.

Last Modified: Sat Apr 21 22:53:24 2007
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