I am a developer and scrum master at a medium-sized software development company. I have 2 bosses (they share a position) whose job title used to be "development manager". The titles have recently been upgraded to CIO and CTO, with, as far as anyone can tell, no additional responsibilities or powers.

There is a fairly strong consensus on the workfloor that they haven't done a particularly good job in the past years, and that they haven't earned the right to new job titles (however meaningless). In fact I heard at least 2 people who have started actively looking for a new job because of this. I think higher management is unaware of this unrest, and probably assumes that the guys are doing a fine job. Since I'm not privy to the conversations between my managers and the directors, I don't really know how the directors would get this impression.

I am wondering what would be an appropriate way to find out why the new job titles were instituted, and for bonus points, to let the directors know they're making a mistake betting on these guys. Preferably without killing my career at the company (every scenario I can come up with so far seems to include this :).


donm's picture

My title is not meant as a challenge, but as a reminder. If you're holding weekly O3's, then your directs get a chance during these to discuss the matter. Do they bring it up? Do you think you should bring it up during your ten minutes?

Basically, I see this as a non-issue. "Maybe the board is trying to improve the way our department is working. Why not at least watch to see what happens?" It's amazing how inertial most people are. Change happens. In my field of work, if you can't handle change - especially pointless, unexplained, and probably poorly envisioned change - then you should probably not be in this field. The last thing I'd try to do is explain what my superiors did without my input.

Questions I'd be asking to the disgruntled, probably in the O3's, would be along the lines of:  

  • "How does this affect your assignments?"
  • "What possible action could you or I take that might change the situation?"

The point is that you're tasked with implementing the company's vision within your group. This vision happens to have added a couple of C-level titles to your area. This cannot be a bad thing, overall, no matter who has the positions or how worthy they are of these positions. It means that your group now has more representation higher up the food chain. Frankly, I'd be excited that I now had a direct pipeline into the C-level meetings.

Is it possible your own feelings are being projected onto your directs? You don't seem too sanguine about the changes, and your directs probably pick up this bent. Is it possible you're creating this disenchantment due to your own feelings? How do your directs even know what your bosses actually do? I'm sure most of my directs don't even know all of the things that I do, much less my boss.

jasperavisser's picture

Hi Don,

No challenge taken. :)

I do hold O3s with my team mates. Strictly speaking they're not my directs. I'm a scrum master, which is not actually a management position. I basically just do the coaching part, and I remove impediments for them. I talk to managements to get things done, and I'm senior enough to have some leverage there.

The team members do bring it up during the O3s occassionally, and I pick up conversations at the lunch table and at drinks. People are quite literal in voicing their objections. You're absolutely right that I am none too happy about the title change myself, but I think I've never expressed that to any of my colleagues. I'm sure I've said a number of times to team mates that it doesn't actually change anything. And it doesn't. Except that it sends the signal that you get rewarded for what people (including myself) consider to be a half-ass job.

These 2 managers are a victim of the Peter principle (plus another principle for which I don't know the name: they started in the company when it was only a handful of people and the whole department grew under them). I don't really know what they do all day, but I can easily list a number of things they don't do and things they do badly.

But you're right, the title changes themselves aren't the issue. And I don't think I can talk to them or higher up about bad management. :)



donm's picture

Maybe they're going to make you the manager, now. There's room for one. I'd be OK with the change, unless and until an outside manager was brought in.

nukeitmike's picture

I have observed a change in title for a few people that at the time, I saw as a bad move. One of them actually "grew up" because of the change and has become a very good manager. The other took the change as an opportunity to do whatever he wanted, without feeling the need to include any of the responsible people.

It is possible that this change will be the catalyst that gets these guys on the right track.