Its difficult to imagine any truly successful adoption of SFIA which doesn’t need great line managers.

This is a clear need when SFIA is supporting operational business as usual activities such as performance management, recruitment, personal development or career planning; the role of the line manager is key. The same is true (and even more so) where SFIA is used in conjunction with an IT transformation or a revamp in talent management practices within the IT organisation.

The IT industry is, of course, notorious for the “reluctant” manager:  the technical expert or the most experienced member of a team who is promoted into the team leader role. Usually without any specific development or support for themselves they continue to focus primarily on their technical responsibilities and view people management as mainly “administrivia” which gets in the way of doing their important tasks.

Now many of these reluctant managers recognise their own  shortcomings but are at least good technical skills coaches / mentors for their staff. But the worst managers aren’t even good at that and tend to hide behind their deep expertise and feel threatened by talented team members.

Part of this is an organisation design problem where the (typically) small teams of technical experts can’t really afford the overhead of a full time “people” manager so some form of hybrid team leader / first among equals type role is needed.

However- this does not mean there are not serious risks and consequences to either hiring bad managers or not providing support and development for the reluctant managers.

This article by Patty Azzarello summarises the true cost of Bad Managers and also refers to a Harvard Business Review blog post by Randall Beck and James Harter, Why Good Managers so Rare which shows that the quality of the managers impacts the success of the business more than anything else.

Patty starts by highlighting that: “when bad managers are allowed to run free, everyone suffers”


Employees suffer – Employees feel unsupported, undirected, bullied, confused, unmotivated, unappreciated, frustrated, and constantly questioning, “is it me?” So they are not engaged and they are not productive.

Executives suffer – When executives lack confidence in the team beneath them, they have to cover for, or recover from poor work and decisions from ineffective managers. They become overloaded because they have to do their job AND the job of their managers.

Business suffers —  When managers are not stepping up to do their jobs — making clear, good decisions and building a strong, capable team beneath them — then executives can’t fully do their jobs because they keep getting dragged down. Business progress slows or stops.

Patty goes on to highlight the business value of good managers and the imperative to improve line managers. Some choice quotes from the article:

  • Companies should systematically demand that every team within their workforce have a great manager.
  • The most important thing a manager can do is to build a highly capable team beneath them — a team that is able to do what the business needs now and in the future.
  • The mistake I see many companies make is to expect people to automatically turn into good managers simply because they are in the job.
  • They miss the key step of telling their managers what makes a good manager, or setting clear expectations about what the job is.
  • Managers tend not to step up on their own because of issues with either imagination (they don’t know they are supposed to), or permission (they are not sure they are allowed to).

Using SFIA – 10 Things You Should Know