Why we should not micromanage

In an adult world, if you are given a task, you are expected to do it. And when someone doesn’t do it, they should be coached and managed accordingly. Micromanaging should not be used as much as possible, although it can get things done well in the short term. We should not assume that individuals are incapable of functioning on their own.

Micromanaging tells people indirectly that they are incapable of managing themselves. When you constantly send a message to people that they are incapable of governing themselves, guess what? They become unable to control themselves. As with the quote I read on the wall of OCS 10 years ago, which got stuck in my head: Treat people as if they were who they ought to become, and you help them become who they are capable of being.

Micromanaging takes energy away from real work that produces value. For example, you are being tasked to do something. For the sake of “accountability”, you decide that your team must inform and update every progress and movement; I think doing this sucks the energy out from people. Instead of focusing on doing my task, I now have to focus my energy on reporting unnecessarily. I am not saying that we should not notify. Instead, it is to balance management by objective and steering the team during the process. Also, from an external perspective, it tells the world that you cannot trust your team.

Sometimes, what we do may give the illusion that it is helping the situation, but it can make things worse. For example, you have a meeting at 10 am. To make sure that everyone is ready for the meeting, you brought the timing to 9.45 am. Because of that, your team now have lesser time to complete what they need to complete. They rush to meet the earlier timing. Because they rushed there, they forgot something and had to go back to their desk, which made them late. The conclusion that you get is that a 15 minutes buffer is not enough, and the next time you have a meeting, you again bring forward the timing by another 10 minutes. Now, those who are on time have to waste their time standing around doing nothing. You have indirectly told them that your time has a buffer and is flexible. And they will take even lesser effort to be on time in the future.

Last but not least, I usually refrain from asking people to submit work before lunch if I know that I am not going to look at it during lunch. Some individuals have a habit of working during lunch because they don’t take much time to eat. Some might want to go for an earlier lunch because they are hungry and return to submit their work when they are more focused. Sometimes, conversations during lunch also spark new thoughts. I came across leaders who request for work to be submitted way earlier than necessary so that they can review it. What we are doing is putting our convenience at the expense of our team and what we will get in the end is low quality work.

When we move away from micromanaging, we are going to screw up. But eventually, what you get is a company that performs better, in a more sustainable way, and you get a team of adults. Not kids that you have to chase around to get things done. Now, that’s my management style. Unfortunately, this to some is throwing some tasks to people and washing my hands.

Published
Categorized as Journal

By ben@sgben.com

Hi, I am Benjamin. I am a Singaporean son, born and bred. I came from a modest background, just like most Singaporeans and went to mainstream schools like most middle-class Singaporeans. What makes me different is my unconventional choices and journey in life, giving me a different insight into life. I share my thoughts not because I think I am right but to be corrected if I am wrong. I am not too concerned about who is right but what is right. Drop me a PM or leave a message and I am happy to talk about anything!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.