Is Micro-Management delusional or can it be effective?

micro managerLast year I wrote a blog on Micro-Management, looking at the bigger picture, whilst as a leader and manager I have never deployed a working philosophy across micro-management, the question has been raised is micro-management delusional or can it be effective?

A famous quote by Lt General Gus Pagonis, once said ‘I never tell a subordinate how to carry out a specific goal. Dictating terms to a subordinate undermines innovation, decreases the subordinate’s willingness to take responsibility for his or her actions, increases the potential for suboptimization of resources, and increases the chances that the command will be dysfunctional if circumstances change dramatically.’

Micro-management can be advantageous in certain short-term situations, such as while training new employees, increasing productivity of underperforming employees, controlling high-risk issues, and when there can be no question of who is in charge. However, the costs associated with long-term micro-management can be exorbitant. Symptoms such as low employee morale, high staff turnover, reduction of productivity and patient dissatisfaction can be associated with micro-management. The negative impacts are so intense that it is labelled among the top three reasons employees resign.

Ultimately, micro-management leads to decreased growth potential in a department. Managers who put too much emphasis on daily operational details can miss the broader picture and fail to plan for departmental expansion. Eventually, many micromanagers find themselves at considerable risk of burnout. Changing behaviour associated with micromanagement can be a lengthy and difficult process. As with most problems, the first step is to realise that there is behaviour that needs to be changed and to understand how it negatively impacts the department.

Conducting a self-assessment of one’s leadership style can be advantageous in this process. The true task is to find a balance between effectively performing daily obligations and strategically planning for the future. This task typically involves proper delegation of duties, and that in itself is a difficult challenge. Proper delegation of tasks may be the primary key to combating micro-managing behaviour, however, some other suggestions include:

  • 1. Develop a vision of what the department will look like in the future.
  • 2. Hire people with the right skills for the job.
  • 3. Develop a policy and procedures manual.
  • 4. Develop solid lines of communication between managers and subordinates.
  • 5. Expect some employee errors.

Mistakes are an important process in the learning experience and should be viewed as a training expense. Employees who are allowed to be self-directed will be motivated to be more productive. Staffing issues such as low morale and high turnover will decrease; patient satisfaction will increase simultaneously

Let’s look at some of the positives across Micro-Management:

Putting Micro-management to Good Use

Each leader develops techniques, procedures, and processes to accomplish their art.  Seen as tools in a toolkit, they use each one when the situation dictates to generate trust, produce a vision, or motivate a subordinate to deliver their goods.  In this vein, micromanagement is nothing more than another tool in your toolkit.  You use it when the situation dictates.

micromanager2015When is micro-managing good?  In situations like these:

High-value, Critical Project.

When there’s a high-value, critical project underway in your area of responsibility you do not have an option of failure.

Fulfilling Expectations of Superiors. Call it self-preservation. Call it pandering. I call it ‘smart’.  Micro-management sometimes needs to be deployed to satiate superiors who themselves wield micro-management as their normal operating mode.

Inept Staff.

Not a happy situation, but you may have staff members that aren’t up to the task.  Yes, you need to fix that either through training or getting new talent.

If you have to micro-management ensure you do it correctly.  Most people react to micro-management negatively, so ensure you do the following:

Let your team know you’re going to deep dive and why.  Subordinates may not enjoy the extra involvement, but most often they’ll accept it if they know why you’re getting into the weeds.

Train your team so micro-management goes away.  If you’re team is new or not seasoned enough, get to work training them to anticipate what questions to answer and what information to push forward.  Micro-management is used most often when there’s a lack of trust in a subordinate’s skill or blind spots in a projects path.  Provide the training/mentoring necessary to in still the needed skill and give your team the recipe for what information is needed to illuminate the key aspects of the project.

Do not micro-manage as Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).  Using this tool is good if done so sparingly.  If you’re using it on every project, then it’s time for some self-analysis.  Constant micro-management comes from a lot of bad stuff on behalf of the leader:  lack of self-confidence, lack of knowledge/skill, perfectionism, ego/arrogance, etc.  If you find yourself in the weeds constantly, step back and ask ‘why’.

Always remember, leadership has sometimes been described as taking people to a place that they would not normally go to on their own. Once a sound strategic planning process has determined what that place should be it is the leader’s prime and fundamental responsibility to assure that the full resources of the organisation are effectively brought to bear to achieve that destination.

An effective planning process can and will systematically examine the company’s situation, its assumptions about the future and its current and required competencies. It will then bring the management team to consensus on a future course and direction for the firm.

The output should be a vision: a realistic, credible, attractive future for the organization. An effective planning process will also be participative in nature. A team of people will provide input from different functional and personality perspectives and their participation will create the buy-in necessary for successful implementation. But at the end of the day it is the organisation’s leader who has to be the chief steward of the vision. It is he or she who has to be obsessed with the desired outcome.