The Management Problem

Today, Whitney Hess wrote a great blog post entitled The Management Problem. In it, she argues:

The problem with managers is that they’re totally disconnected from the everyday doing [that is] getting done.

She goes on to suggest a solution, that it’s a designer’s and developer’s responsibility to make sure that their managers understand and value what they do. Which is kind of odd, in a way, as she notes — if your manager hired you, they hired you to do something that they should already understand and value, right?

But that’s the paradox of being a manager, or even the paradox of a client who hires a designer or developer. Clients and managers are focused on solving business problems, while creative and technical types are focused on delivering solutions. In between is a fairly large gap.

And as Mike Monteiro notes in Design is a Job:

Don’t hope someone “gets it,” and don’t blame them if they don’t — convince them.

In other words, the gap between a manager (or a client) and the person creating the solution is an inherent gap. Even a so-called intuitive design solution is rarely intuitive from the beginning. Every new design, technique, or technology has its moment of needing some selling and explanation. Clients and managers can be smart, but they haven’t gone through the work that you have. And they can’t read your mind.

The best way to fill the gap between business needs and creative and technical solutions is product management. Perhaps product management is accomplished by a dedicated role on a team, or perhaps it is a time that is regularly set aside by someone else on the creative or technical team. Or perhaps it’s a manager’s responsibility on the business side.

Do you need to help your boss become a product manager, or do you need to expand your role to do product management work? In either case, product management is the bridge across the gap between business needs and technical solutions. Do your part to help build this bridge, and your team’s design and development work will be better for it.


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