Every now and then in my consulting work, I see pending doom. Here’s how it looks:
The geek doesn’t talk to the business users. The geek gets all of their marching orders directly from the manager, and the manager is the one talking to the business. The geek reports their project status to the manager, but never gets invited to company-wide status meetings.
The manager is losing business requirements in translation. Maybe the business users are getting angrier and angrier about bad database performance, but the manager isn’t clearly communicating that to the geek. The geek is marching on about their business, blissfully unaware of the growing crowd at the door.
The geek is focusing on routine day-to-day tasks. The geek is in the midst of a project that’s vital to the business, but the project itself has no business visibility. For example, the geek is working on an upgrade from Application Version X to Application Version Y because vX is about to be unsupported by the manufacturer. Upgrading is the right thing to do, but the business isn’t asking for it – the users are more concerned about performance.
The manager has a history of letting people go. Every year or two, the manager lets someone go for underperforming. He then brings in a brand new replacement who does a great job for the first year or two, but over time, they don’t see the bus pulling up to the intersection. The manager throws them under the bus for a project gone wrong.
The manager’s new hires come in via recruiters. The manager has already burned through all their personal friends and past coworkers, none of whom want to go to work with him anymore. He has to rely on strangers bringing in fresh pedestrians.
That geek is about to get thrown under the bus.
If it’s you, you have two options: find another job fast, or figure out how to avoid the bus by neutralizing the bus driver. You can’t get him fired, but you can take all his power away in a matter of minutes. Go directly to the business users and start a conversation. Are they happy with their app’s performance? What pains do they have with the IT infrastructure? Listen to their needs, show concrete improvements, and welcome further communications directly from the user.
You’re going to have to work at it because the Bus Driver Manager likes to be the only point of contact between the business and his staff. It takes political savvy to please the end users without completely angering the Bus Driver, but you can do it. Unfortunately, someone else is going to get thrown under the bus, because this guy isn’t gonna change, but at least it won’t be you. And if you really love all of your coworkers, teach them all this technique, and the manager will become less and less relevant over time.