Tuesday, May 08, 2007

When Micromanagement is Appropriate

A reader's comment recently sparked consideration of when micromanagement is appropriate. I know many managers regard it as an automatic sin and yet those same managers will concede that their projects are often done in by details.

I like Thomas Leonard's recommendation of 50 - 48 - 2: That 50% of time be spent on the details, 48% on the system, and 2% on vision. It goes agains the usual leadership prescriptions, which place the leader on a mountain top pondering the next fifty years. Plenty of managers aren't suffering from a lack of vision. Their problem rests in implementation and that is where more engagement may be necessary. Micromanagement is appropriate when:

  • It is an exception and not the rule.

  • A system is not in place to address the issue.

  • A system is in place but it would be senseless to follow the usual procedures.

  • Management needs to send a message about priorities and urgency.

  • Management needs to use its involvement as a form of training.

  • After micromanagement is used, a Lessons Learned session is held to examine how similar matters in the future can be handled without the heavy involvement of the boss.


Anonymous said...

Isn't it also appropriate for training and corrective action?

Michael Wade said...

Absolutely! That can be one of the best reasons.

Anonymous said...

While I'm definitely not a defender of micromanagement I think I don't share your strict definition of the term. There are situations when management goes beyond "do this and do it well" class of assignment. Sometimes it goes into quite detailed tasks for people. However for me it doesn't have to mean micromanagement automatically.

For me micromanagement starts in the point where accountability is taken from people. When the managers goes and throws detailed scenario for next task leaving people as brainless golems it's a sin. Even when any other way of resolving a problem is not addressed in procedures. On the other hand when the manager advices people with a bit of his (ancient) technical knowledge, leaving them the decision whether to use the advice or not, it doesn't fall into micromanagement definition form me. At least not if it's done once in a while. And it doesn't matter how low-level advice would be.

Michael Wade said...

I think we're in agreement on this one. Thanks!