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Posted 7 Jul 2005

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Developers are from Mars, Managers are from Venus

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7 Jul 2005BSD5 min read
Developers are from Mars, managers are from Venus: A practical guide for improving communication and getting what you want in your IT department.


A practical guide for improving communication and getting what you want in your IT department.

Once upon a time Martians and Venusians were made to work with each other, not initially realizing they were from different planets. Then reality set in and they realized they had different internal goals and motivations. Their overall goal should have been the same, and at one time was, but internal conflicts and goals set them against each other. Worse yet, they did not realize that they spoke different languages. When a developer spoke, he spoke in a language that the manager thought he understood, but he really heard something different, and vice versa.

Ok, pun over - I think you get the idea. If you did not get the pun, you can check here.

This is a topic that could fill a book, but for now I will focus on the lighter side and provide some insight to what a manager hears when a developer says certain phrases, and what the developer really means, and in some cases vice versa. I have tried to take equal liberties with both developers and managers. Have fun!

A developer says

I refactored it

What a developer means:

  • I found some code that worked fine, but I did not like the way someone else wrote it. So I rewrote it.

What a manager hears:

  • Huh? Programmer mumbo jumbo again.

Its an elegant implementation

What a developer means:

  • I took something really simple, and I made it complex. No one else in the team will ever understand what the heck I did, but I think it's cool.

What a manager hears:

  • It's finished. Next task!

I saved 2 bytes

What a developer means:

  • I spent 4 hours on a 5 minute task and the code is five times bigger than what it was before. It does save 2 bytes, but it is used only at three places in the program, so I shaved 6 bytes off from our 45 Megabyte footprint.

What a manager hears:

  • I have room for more features!

It doesn't need testing

What a developer means:

  • It looks really simple, so simple that I couldn't have possibly goofed something up. I know I should test it, but testing is for QA right?

What a manager hears:

  • Well if it's really that simple.

It dosen't need comments

What a developer means:

  • I've been working on this piece of code for so long, I know exactly what it does, I can see the method when I close my eyes.

What a manager hears:

  • Good code is self commenting isn't it?

I reused some code

What a developer means:

  • I cut and pasted some stuff.

What a manager hears:

  • He used an existing library, great!

Oops.... Never mind

What a developer means:

  • Hmm, I just thought of something that could really screw up the system and crash badly. But no one will ever try to click on option X after option Y, so it should be OK.

What a manager hears:

  • He never wants to ship it, always says it's not ready. So if he says it's OK, must be good to go!

It's not a bug, it's a documentation issue

What a developer means:

  • It's a bug, but it's really gnarly to fix it. Let's just document it as designed behaviour and maybe we can even convince them it's a feature.
  • For a real life example, please look here.
  • The official response is even better: look here.
  • The author of this one has a job waiting for him in Government if he ever leaves Microsoft.
  • PC Mag has fun too: look here.

What a manager hears:

  • We can't have too much documentation, can we?

We need some more time

What a developer means:

  • We really screwed something up. It's so bad that if we ship it now, it probably won't even run.

What a manager hears:

  • Time and deadlines are not compatible. My project file says we should ship tomorrow.

A manager says

I just read about x. I want the whole team to use x.

What a manager means:

  • Manager's magazine says buzzword x will make you guys program faster and save me money. I really don't have a clue what it really does or if it applies to our situation, but I am sure somehow we can apply it to our 4 million line code base, by next week.

What a developer hears:

  • Uh oh, his monthly magazine arrived. I'll have to talk to the guys in the mail room again.

Just ship it

What a manager means:

  • I have a deadline.

What a developer hears:

  • But the code does not even compile today. Well I guess I can comment out something.

I don't need it "good", I need it fast

What a manager means:

  • I really don't care what you have to do, I need to meet this milestone.

What a developer hears:

  • If you say so. Wow, I'll have to actually use those comment things so that I can make some notes in the code about this and so no one thinks that I really code this bad.

If it will take you 4 weeks, 4 of you can do it in a week, right?

What a manager means:

  • 4 weeks = 4 developers x 1 week = 4 weeks x 1 developer. Why not? It computes! Algebra does not lie.

What a developer hears:

  • I guess he thinks 9 women can make one baby in 1 month.

Can you make a use case diagram?

What a manager means:

  • I don't understand it. Draw me some pictures with some stick figures.

What a developer hears:

  • What's a use case diagram?

Will this affect the critical path?

What a manager means:

  • Push something else off that will screw us up later. Let's meet this milestone; you guys can work on weekend later when it gets nearer to the deadline.

What a developer hears:

  • Will it interfere with my Unreal tournament that I have set up in the office after hours?


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The BSD License


About the Author

Chad Z. Hower, a.k.a. Kudzu
"Programming is an art form that fights back"

I am a former Microsoft Regional DPE (MEA) covering 85 countries, former Microsoft Regional Director, and 10 Year Microsoft MVP.

I have lived in Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Switzerland, France, Jordan, Russia, Turkey, The Caribbean, and USA.

Creator of Indy, IntraWeb, COSMOS, X#, CrossTalk, and more.

Comments and Discussions

General:) Pin
Muammar©8-Jan-07 0:19
Member Muammar©8-Jan-07 0:19 
GeneralI guess he thinks 9 women can make one baby in 1 month. Pin
cbolz15-Jul-05 13:27
Membercbolz15-Jul-05 13:27 
GeneralGreat Parody! Pin
JR Hull13-Jul-05 2:57
MemberJR Hull13-Jul-05 2:57 
GeneralA developer says: It is 90% complete, and well designed. Pin
Frank Hileman12-Jul-05 5:58
MemberFrank Hileman12-Jul-05 5:58 
GeneralReal players are down to Earth. Pin
WREY8-Jul-05 8:34
MemberWREY8-Jul-05 8:34 
GeneralRe: Real players are down to Earth. Pin
Chad Z. Hower aka Kudzu8-Jul-05 8:50
MemberChad Z. Hower aka Kudzu8-Jul-05 8:50 
GeneralDeveloper site Pin
Emilio Garavaglia8-Jul-05 6:24
MemberEmilio Garavaglia8-Jul-05 6:24 
GeneralRe: Developer site Pin
Chad Z. Hower aka Kudzu8-Jul-05 8:52
MemberChad Z. Hower aka Kudzu8-Jul-05 8:52 
General:-) Pin
Mike Walter7-Jul-05 21:32
MemberMike Walter7-Jul-05 21:32 
GeneralLOL Pin
oykica7-Jul-05 20:40
Memberoykica7-Jul-05 20:40 
GeneralUnfortunately, it is true Pin
Stephan Pilz7-Jul-05 20:14
MemberStephan Pilz7-Jul-05 20:14 
GeneralRe: Unfortunately, it is true Pin
Chad Z. Hower aka Kudzu8-Jul-05 1:22
MemberChad Z. Hower aka Kudzu8-Jul-05 1:22 
GeneralRe: Unfortunately, it is true Pin
Kel_25-Aug-06 14:38
MemberKel_25-Aug-06 14:38 
GeneralDevelopers are from Saturn! Pin
Keyvan Nayyeri7-Jul-05 19:00
MemberKeyvan Nayyeri7-Jul-05 19:00 
GeneralRe: Developers are from Saturn! Pin
Chad Z. Hower aka Kudzu8-Jul-05 0:57
MemberChad Z. Hower aka Kudzu8-Jul-05 0:57 
GeneralRe: Developers are from Saturn! Pin
Keyvan Nayyeri8-Jul-05 2:55
MemberKeyvan Nayyeri8-Jul-05 2:55 

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