When I sold my computer store, Microdigital,Â to Laskys (part of the Ladbroke group of companies) in the early 1980sÂ one of the first things they did was to bundle me off on a residential management training course at Carewell Lodge, next to Lingfield racecourse. It was a given that to be at any management position in LadbrokesÂ you had to have the right training. This contrasts very sharply with my experience in the computer games industry.
It seems to me that most senior gamesÂ management are where they are today by being in the right place at the right time. And that entrepeneurial skills (or smooth talking) have been valued well above management skills. At middle management level it seems that people are promoted, without training, till they reach their level of incompetence.
Anecdotally one director (not a Darling) at Codemasters used to deride my management training believing his natural (in other words rubbish) management skill were far superior.
It is not like this in other industries. In well managed industries you get the management training before you get any chance of promotion to higher responsiblity. And there is a glass ceiling which you will never get through without an MBA. To such a point that MBAs now earn substantially more than non MBAs with the same non management skills.
And this is how it is going to be in games (and already is in some places). The reasons are simple. Part of the problem is that we are a very young industry and we are still growing up,Â as we do our businesses will become more normal. A further influence is that publisher consolidation will be by big well managed companies who will squeeze out the chaff (an example of this is imminent in the UK). But most of all it will be because the untrained managers will underperform andÂ Darwin and capitalism will, eventually, do their job. Though on the evidence that I have seen this process is taking a long time.
So what do you do about it? Firstly educate yourself. Read the Economist every week. Read some good management texts. (I still do both of these today).Â If you want to get to the top get an MBA, do it part time by remote learning if you have to. And as for your staff, only employ people who are better than yourself and always ensure they have the management training for the job that they are doing, especially at promotion time.
It is essential in a company to have a culture of management excellence. From the top to the bottom. And this is still suprisingly rare in computer games.
Â So what are your experiences of game industry management? Use the comments to let everyone know.