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The Management Parade

by Douglas E. Welch

July 2, 1999

© 1999, Douglas E. Welch

If you are currently working in the computer department of a large company or
corporation you will see "The Management Parade" at least once in your career.
This is the normal progression of events, especially in larger corporations
where the regular staff remains fairly stable but, management, at all levels,
changes quite frequently. This can mean you might have a new supervisor, a new
manager, a new director and a new vice-president, all in the same year. In an
environment like this there are a few guidelines to insure that you remain a
spectator from on the curb instead of part of the passing parade.

As the department turns

Despite the disruptive nature of frequent changes some businesses feel they
have to shake up their organization on a regular basis. Computer departments are
especially hard hit. Every vice-president thinks they could run things better. .
There are no accepted business practices regarding where computer departments
should reside. This means that these departments can often be bounced from one
division to another. In some companies the Finance department overseas
technology, in others, tech managers have their own division and in others, each
vice-president wants to set up their own computer departments.

Bungi Boss

As you might imagine, never knowing who your next boss might be can be somewhat
stressful. It seems once you get a handle on the desires of one manager another
comes in and changes everything. The tenure of these managers grows shorter and
shorter as each tries to institute their own programs and remove those of the
previous manager. All this happens before they are ripped out of the department
to be promoted elsewhere or shown the door like all the rest. I call this the
"Bungi Boss" syndrome. They fall from the sky, reorganize everything and then
are gone while the staff is left to deal with the results.

Protect Yourself

Obviously, your most important goal is to remain employed. I am proof that it
is possible to survive the "Bungi Boss" syndrome, at least for a few years. When
I ended my 5 year tenure at a major entertainment corporation I looked back on 3
directors, 2 interim directors, 5 managers and a host of supervisors and had to
laugh. Many of them had come and gone in relatively quick periods while I
continued to move along in my career. There are a few ways you too can survive
such a parade.

Firstly, do the work that needs to get done. The people you actually assist
will be your biggest supporters to management. If you make sure their needs are
met you can help insure a long career. Fulfilling their needs can be a little
difficult when the pet projects of each manager begin to flow but you must
always remember that managers can come and go. Certainly do what the new manager
wants. You don't want to be fired for insubordination but always keep in mind
the bread and butter of your job.

Next, help the new manager navigate the land mines that are sowed in their path
by previous managers and other executives. I see increasing evidence that new
managers, especially those brought in from outside the company, are set up to
fail. Internal politics, poor budgets and a host of other problems face them the
minute they walk through the door. Helping them get through these dangerous
waters will allow you to effect policy and ease the transition for both you and
your new manager no matter how long the tenure.

Don't get attached

As you might imagine getting too attached to your new boss, or your current
one, could lead you to follow them out the door when the next reorganization
occurs. Don't tie yourself too closely with the manager's new policies. If you
agree with the policies, support them but always be careful of the political
undercurrents that can threaten to sweep you away. You don't want to anger
someone who might end up being your next manager or vice-president. Like every
good reorganization (or revolution) throughout history, there is almost always a
purge. Act like the Swiss and try to keep at least an appearance of neutrality.

Whatever happens, try not to let the new manager disrupt your daily work life.
Despite the belief in new programs and new paradigms the day-to-day work of a
computer employee changes little over time. Keeping things running is always
more important (to you and the people you support, if not your manager) than the
latest pet project. Keep an open mind to new managers, paradigms and projects,
but remember that managers and other executives are not necessarily here to

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/

He can reached via email at douglas@welchwrite.com