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November 24, 2012

PresidentWare – When Leading by Example Goes Too Far

A recent e-mail with a prospective client revealed how, by merely inquiring about offshore software development, they finally uncovered a significant issue within the company itself.

The company’s CEO happened to be a strong technical developer himself. This, combined with a seat-of-the-pants approach, made for a leader that wanted to get in and micromanage the entire software development process.

The problem with that approach is that hiring a bunch of individual programmers and managing them closely doesn’t work well. Micromanaging a team creates resentment, and it hurts the final product when you don’t leverage the innovations and talents of the team. Consequently, the manager responsible for software development felt extremely uncomfortable with the notion of outsourcing. He couldn’t see how it would work, or how he’d get approval from the president.

This instance reminds me of a client I had back in the 80s when I did contract programming. This Silicon Valley company was started by two brothers who were both very technical. One was the President and the other was the VP of engineering. On one occasion, I came in to find the VP of Engineering brother had changed all of my source code over the weekend because he didn’t like the names of the variables I used within the code. Changing code is so potentially disruptive to the entire team that I just had to shake my head. At the same company, the President brother would occasionally add code to the application. We all joked that it was PresidentWare.

If you’re running a company, you have no business changing code yourself. If you’re still writing code and having hands-on involvement with software development, the company is not ready or mature enough for outsourcing – for bringing in a company that can add value by bringing in a team of programmers to take over some responsibility for sections of the code or program. In order to get the full benefit of outsourcing in this way, you have to be prepared to let people in. The idea of outsourcing would never apply to companies with micromanaging leadership. They’re missing out on the capability.

This reminds me of a book by Robert Kiyosaki called “The Cash Flow Quadrant.” Kiyosaki describes four kinds of business roles people play in their work life: employee, self-employed, business owner and investor. When leaders act like self-employed professionals, they lose sight of their goal of building the business. He adds if there were a song for this type of manager it would be “Nobody Does It Better” or “I Did It My Way.”

In this industry, many of the technical people who start companies still have that self-employed mentality. This creates a psychological barrier to reaching out and getting help in the area in which you’re an expert yourself. So how can you get past PresidentWare syndrome? If you’re not getting code written as productively as you could be and hiring local programmers isn’t practical, you have to be prepared to let go of some responsibility.

The reality is that 100% of our clients leverage our partners to essentially rebalance their steady teams. The objective is a reduced, blended cost of IT resources that channel into a vast pool of talent for ad hoc needs. Accelerance can help you find a company that can take a whole project, or portions of one, over for you. The right kind of company can really make a difference.

To learn more about Offshore or Nearshore Software Development, or to discover how an Accelerance Partner can assist you with your IT or software development requirements, please contact us today at 877-992-2235 x 100 or by email at info @

Andy Hilliard

As CEO, Andy leads and advocates for the globalization and collaboration of great software teams with companies in search of talent, innovation and a globally-distributed extension of their engineering function and culture. Andy founded the ground-breaking nearshore software development services company, Isthmus Costa...

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