There's an old adage in computing: "Good-fast-cheap, pick any two." It's a somewhat simplistic way to say "You can't have it all." You've all experienced this in some form: A vendor can quickly (fast) deliver a product that's high quality (good), but it will cost you. If you want it less expensive (cheap) then you either have to sacrifice some quality, or wait longer to have it delivered.
I like to think along the lines of another triangle: "Lead-manage-do."
Similar to "good-fast-cheap", the "lead-manage-do" triangle helps us to understand the focus we need to put in each of our areas. To be the most successful, one person really should concentrate on (at most) two of the legs of this triangle: "lead-manage", "lead-do", "manage-do". You've probably noticed that we already follow this practice in OIT: managers are expected to provide leadership within their teams, but don't have logins to the systems their teams manage, etc.
Looking outside the U of M, some example:
* Some large companies have a lead architect role who develops new technology, and provides leadership for using that technology effectively. This kind of lead architect is both "lead" and "do".
Typically, these architects are not responsible for a staff of engineers. They usually work alone, or partnered with another architect, so do not "manage".
* Several years ago, the idea of a working manager
was popular. These managers would be responsible for running their department, but also provide some
hands-on assistance with the systems (usually database administration, or systems administration.) These managers are in both "manage" and "do"
In my experience, the working manager is focused too heavily on the day-to-day running of the department, not to mention the systems, to provide much leadership for the "next generation" of what they do. They may push for more automation, or to make things easier, but rarely are able to focus on dramatic changes that take their organization to the next level.
Like any analogy, "lead-manage-do" is not perfect. I can't say it's impossible
to provide effective leadership, manage efficiently, and
still do the day-to-day hands-on work - but it's really hard to get the job done, and do it well
. The best way to be successful is to practice one or two of these focus areas.
I encourage you to think about how to use "lead-manage-do", and apply it to your work.