This morning I got into another interesting conversation with one of the head directors here at camp. Like most big organizations the camp has a hierarchy. A senior level management with departments that have a 'director' level that manages the day to day operations of all of the people working in that department.
As we talked we discussed a number of key staff that had extreme technical expertise in a certain domain. These director are indispensable to the organization meaning the camps ability to operate efficiently would be significantly hindered should the director leave.
This means job security for the director, but in reality it means that director can never move up and get out from underneath their position here at camp.
Additionally this type of situation is obviously a threat to any organization's growth and well being.
Thankfully a great book has been written on the subject. A book called the [E-Myth Revisited by Michael E-Gerber(http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0887307280/ref=aslitl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0887307280&linkCode=as2&tag=ride2shootcom-20&linkId=HB6ZJNUU44OMKIWE)
This book is a study of businesses that have successfully created ironclad people processes that make businesses scalable.
For starters it helps categorize different people into different arch types. Understand these are not meant to pigeonhole people but merely identify their strengths and their roles in the organization.
These are the brave few that see a need and try and figure out a way to fill it. In this case the men and women that decided to build a gymnastics camp on a old farm. Then the next generation of owner that forged the way into action sports such as skateboarding and BMX. These individuals are, even today, forging a head into new untapped markets and figuring out extra ways to enhance the camp experience.
Technicians are the guys on the ground actually performing the work. These are the coaches and skate instructors. These guys are the ones working with the campers day after day while the Entrepreneurs continue tweaking and tuning the origination.
It takes all types:
Just like most team sports there different positions. Lets look at baseball: Your catcher might make a crappy outfielder and a worse pitcher. You need to hire the right person for the job.
Some technician positions are tougher to staff than others:
Some technicians require high levels of training and can be difficult to hire such as the nurses, athletic trainers and high level coaches. Others are easier to find locally such as the food servers and maintenance staff. I am not saying their job is easier but I want you to understand the supply and demand varies from technician position.
Managers are those that bridge the gap between technician and the entrepreneur. While the entrepreneur is constantly zooming in to tweak the tiniest detail then back out to examine the business as a whole they need someone to manage all of the various technicians. This is where the manager comes into play.
The director level position(or Lieutenants as I often call them) are designed to facilitate the day to day operation of the technicians their for they need to be great managers.
A note about myself:
I have thick enough skin to take negative feedback and the proverbial beating and enough destain for the status quo that you could call me an Entrepreneur
I also have spent years crafting some niche skills that would qualify me as a Technician.
However typically I am either zoomed real far in on a technical problem or zoomed out trying to tweak the organization as a hole in the role of an entrepreneur. Combine that with a short attention span and a disorganized nature I am not a great manager.
I know this and it allows me to compensate by either recruiting someone or creating a system to help manage my businesses and projects.
Great chefs that are expert technicians in the field of making amazing cuisine often think they can start or manage a restaurant but this is not always the case. It takes a totally different skill set to break new ground on a business or to manage the other various technicians such as the servers, hosts and bus boys.
A similar problem arises in gyms and at camp. People that are great a teaching gymnastics skills are not always the greatest managers. For example I am one of those people, I can coach double back layouts and huge bar release moves but I would not be a good manager of a team.
What commonly happens is an an business grows and the entrepreneur begins to separate themselves from the day to day work involved in overseeing the technicians they need to hire managers. Logically their first thought is to promote one of the technicians to be a manager.
As we discussed earlier the poor technician though talented at their craft often lacks the skills required to manage others. This often results in a lot of growing pains.
This is a problem for the individual as well as the business. Imagine being thrown into a job that requires a totally different skill set than you have and everyone expects you to be great at it. Then abruptly finding out you don't as the many spinning plates you inherited start to crash. It is a lose lose for both the business and the individual.
Identify potential managers traits at in your technicians and start teaching management skills early on.
Some mediocre technicians may make great managers.
Hire outside of your organization:
Ideally you can hire and train managers internally. Sometimes you have to hire outside of your business and bring someone in to manage. This is better than just promoting bad managers.
What about seniority:
Great technicians often have big egos and don't like being told what to do by a not so great technicians. The solution to this is simple:
Keep your organization as flat as possible.
A manager is not necessary above a technician instead the manager is a resource for the high level technician and a guide for the lower level technicians.
Great technicians can be great teachers:
Make your high level technicians teachers to your low level technicians. This helps take care of the ego thing.
Empower your technicians:
Some of you in-trepreneurs won't be able to avoid hierarchy, seniority(bureaucracy). Pair your highest level technician with a manger and give the technician the title of ‘chief X officer’ or ‘senior Y’ then give the manager the title of ‘director of Z’.
The senior level technician that know how the craft should be performed should be in charge of creating the policies and procedures that the technicians below them will follow.
The director(manager) is responsible for ensuring that the processes are carried out.
Make sure that the technicians and managers know these are two distinctly different paths in the company.
_Note: This is not my recommendation for the camp _
I realize the camp scenario is a bit different than a tech startup but the same can be applied. Your best programmers probably won't be the best managers. The good news is as long as you are aware of this you can empower your technicians to create the processes and procedures to consistently ship good products and put your managers to work managing those processes. Once you have all this in place really exciting things start happening.