After reading Paul Graham’s post and Seth Godin’s post about makers and managers I couldn’t help but think that a manager at any level of an organization operates on a manager’s schedule by definition, not by choice, and that for a manager to operate more as a maker it takes a lot more than finding the time for it.
A manager’s day-to-day reality is ruled by an endless stream of cross-domain issues such as coordination of resources, purchasing decisions, crisis management, conflict resolution, approvals, people management & mentoring, cross-team collaboration, etc. By definition a manager’s schedule is ruled by the one hour (or less) intervals required to deal with most of the issues that come up. Many of these issues cannot be scheduled in advance or predicted and can rarely be postponed when they come up. Furthermore, most of these issues do not require the manager to be a maker, at least in the sense that Paul Graham defines it. In fact quite the contrary is true, namely what is required is quick decisions and actions, sometimes based on inadequate information. The ability of a manager to make sound and quick decisions while operating on a manager’s schedule determines to a large extend a manager’s performance.
So, even before we throw in the countless meetings that managers are required to attend and the time spent in upwards reporting, it is clear that managers have very little time to be makers. As Paul Graham says, a maker needs dedicated and extended blocks of time to be effective. A manager rarely has that luxury and even if she tries to block “maker’s” time in her schedule, there are bound to be interruptions that cannot be avoided and that render any “maker” effort futile.
But there are more constraints.
A manager ends up having very little energy to be a maker. Continuous context switching sucks all creative energy out of a person. I am convinced that over time and if they don’t consciously work on it, most managers can end up losing their ability to concentrate on something specific for an extended period of time.
Even worse, managers may end up losing their capacity to be makers, since their mind ends up getting rewired to handle their day-to-day reality.
Finally, a manager’s schedule significantly reduces one of the biggest “maker” drivers (and rewards), namely the sense of accomplishment. Working on and successfully completing something big and complex generates large doses of euphoria. Quite often, a manager ends up with a routine stripped of any such euphoria that creative work generates.
Of course managers still have to deal with very challenging tasks and difficult decisions. Defining strategy, turning strategy into action, driving big initiatives, meeting yearly targets, managing people, streamlining organizations and processes, etc can be tremendous mind benders. Yet they still have to be attacked on a manager’s schedule.
Ultimately, a manager’s ability to be a maker when needed while operating on a manager’s schedule may be her greatest asset.