Being in upper management must damage certain portions of your brain


The air must be thinner the higher up the management chain you go, or maybe it just gives you more opportunities to look stupid. Like this message:

From: <some upper manager>
Subject: <some subject>

I will try to keep this relatively brief as I know how busy everyone is.

<... 4-page message follows...>

If this is brief, I'd hate to see a "somewhat lengthy" message.

Comments (18)
  1. MilesArcher says:

    Part of the problem is that no one likes to tell some in power anything that could be remotely considered critisism.

    So, he/she had someone read it and they said "yes sir, yes sir, it’s great, send it out".

    This is the same reason that Steven King’s later books are so bloated. No editor has the guts to edit the Great One’s prose.

  2. DJackson says:

    This is the same reason that Steven King’s later books are so bloated. No editor has the guts to edit the Great One’s prose.

    Or any author who gets famous. Look at the Harry Potter series; each book is half an inch thicker than the previous. There’s more being written but but more being said.

    I’ve also wondered by computer books (from any publisher on any topic) is almost always 2 inches thick. Is there some unspoken rule that these books must be at least this thickness or they can’t possibly be good?

  3. pwujek says:

    Actually there is an unwritten rule.

    You’ll notice that if a computer book really doesn’t have enough content it will be printed on thicker paper in bigger type in order to make it fat.

    If it’s thicker it looks like more value for the money in many people’s eyes. Sadly this thinking actually works.

  4. Anon says:

    Maybe he just didn’t have enough time to make it shorter?

  5. Cooney says:

    Or any author who gets famous.

    My favorite is Heinlein – I tried to read number of the beast, but got lost somewhere in the middle.

    > If it’s thicker it looks like more value for the money in many people’s eyes.

    That’s why I go for stuff that resembles textbooks – small, hardbound, and expensive. It’s done remarkably well in weeding out the crap. Also, avoid publishers like SAMS or anything with ‘bible’ in the title.

  6. Mike Weiss says:

    Hey, the Python Bible…

    http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0764548077.html

    …was quite good. I consider it the exception to the "Bible" rule.

  7. I think it’s a matter of focus. Upper mngt types often make it up the latter by schmoozing, not biz accomplishments. For instance, one of my friends a few years back was demoted several times from an environment support engineer to company director (huh?) by simply failing to do his job and schmoozing 4-6 hours per day. The execs liked him and everybody else knew him to be deadweight, so he was de(pro)moted out of each position until he became a director.

  8. Jim says:

    Some probably make it by knowing how to spell "ladder". ;)

    Couldn’t resist!

  9. Anonymous Coward says:

    Philip Greenspun’s article on what it is like to write a computer book, as well as how the publishing industry thinks is an excellent background read:

    http://philip.greenspun.com/wtr/dead-trees/story.html

  10. Cooney says:

    For instance, one of my friends a few years back was demoted several times from an environment support engineer to company director (huh?)

    My head asplode.

  11. Mike Dunn says:

    Everyone rises to the level of their own incompetence. ;)

  12. Florian says:

    Well, he said "relatively brief". I guess compared to the Encyclopaedia Britannica four pages can be considered brief. If you’re in upper mngmt out-of-box isn’t enough anymore, you gotta be willing to think out of domain, so don’t tell me that was comparing apples and oranges.

  13. Steve Sheppard says:

    Actually, I think this is called The Peter Principle and the principle is "Everyone will rise one level above their level of competence". It’s true mostly in management. You keep getting promoted until you are no longer capable of doing the job and then they put you on "Special Projects" or you leave to "Spend more time with your family". Not too long after they usually pop up somewhere else to run a Godzilla-like wake of destruction through their comapany.

    For excellent examples of this see http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/aboutUs/leadership/region/greatPlains.jsp

    or http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/sinneck/default.asp

  14. Johan Johansson says:

    Regarding the thickness of computer books – I never ever buy a thick one if I can help it since they are nearly invariably chatty and bloated with anecdotes you never wanted to read. This also makes it nearly impossible to look something up in such a book.

    Less is more.

  15. Norman Diamond says:

    Being in upper management must damage

    > certain portions of your brain

    It’s the other way around. You have to have certain portions of your brain already damaged in order to get into upper management. Birds of a feather promote each other. It’s not only in upper management, it’s also politics, police departments, etc.

    ‘Course us abnormal people such as developers (and some even more abnormal people such as honest people) obviously have portions of our brains damaged too, but they’re the wrong portions.

  16. Thanks Jim for the correction. Now you know why iM not upper management material. Or does that mean iM upper management material? :)

  17. Jim Grey says:

    I used to edit computer books for a living. Still do sometimes, freelance. Your average Barnes and Noble has hundreds of computer books on the shelf, most of which arranged spine out. The conventional wisdom at most computer-book publishers is that a book with a thick spine is easier to see on the shelf than one with a thin spine. The thick-spined book is therefore more likely to be purchased.

    And yes, it is absolutely true that publishers use thicker paper to fatten up books. If the book is part of a series, however, they won’t increase the typeface sizes — those are laid into reusable page templates and it screws up the page flows. Also, acquisitions editors at the bigger publishers, such as Que and Sams, actually plan a book’s rough page count even before they have an author and an outline.

    There are exceptions to this rule. I recently copy edited a book for Apress that ran exactly as many pages as the author wrote. It was kind of refreshing.

  18. As a Sams author, I can validate Jim’s comments about Sams. I was often told to write off-topic chapters and drag out short chapters.

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