Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Big Picture People" vs. "Detail people" revisited

Technical working groups often contain "detail" people and "big
picture" people. The "detail" people are the worker bees. The "big
picture" people are often the managers.

Unfortunately, the managers often don't have the ability to do the
detail work if they needed to. At least, they'd have a whole lot to
learn. So in effect they're very disconnected from the details.

Most everyone accepts or tolerates this organization. But I'm very
skeptical about it. Why should intelligent and educated "detail
people" need relatively-uninformed "big picture" people lording over

I know when I'm in deep studying details, it's hard to keep focus on
the overall project. E.g., we have a network outage, so I'm studying
this particular log; and to do the analysis on that log, I need to
whip up a little script; and then I need to look up something in the
GAWK online manual right quick...

While I'm going in deep, somebody does need to be watching the overall
project -- the "big picture". And normally, that "big picture" takes
precedence over the individual tasks, such as my log analysis. I might
be barking up the wrong tree, looking at the wrong log altogether.

My limitation is that I can only keep track of a few details at a
time. I might not need a manager to give me orders -- but I do need
somebody whose attention is on the overall problem. Their registers
aren't occupied with details of MGCP syntax, so they're able to think
about whether MGCP RSIP messages are the right place to be looking.

In my experience, the best "big picture" people in this role also have
capability to function as "detail" people. They know the smaller
details if they need to, but they also understand the overall goals
and how the details contribute.

Perhaps it's a matter of abstraction. For example, while somebody
works on the details of X, somebody else studies Y, while yet somebody
else chooses X, Y, and Z to study. Any person could competently
function in either role.

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