Note: This article was originally published on SMBResource.com which is no longer active, we have re-published this archived copy.
A necessary evil, that isn’t so evil after all
Micromanagement; the word itself has one of the most negative connotations in all of business management. “He’s a micro manager” is essentially the same as, “He is driving me crazy”.
What is the definition of micromanagement?
Micromanagement is generally defined as exercising excessive control of a project or group of people. The fuzziness comes in to play when we try to determine what is considered excessive. Clearly this is in the eyes of the beholder. The employee will generally have a much lower threshold than the manager.
Why is micromanagement considered a negative?
The truth of the matter is that it is mostly considered negative by the person or group of people being micro managed. Most people want to be left alone to do their job. The micro manager makes this more difficult. It can also be a negative just by the shear wieght of the title. If a director is heavily involved in a project, work that might proceed at a quicker pace is slowed down while everyone waits for his or her input. When this is spread across several projects productivity levels can,and usually will, plummet.
When is micro managing bad?
When a manager, director or other executive tries to micro manage every person and every project productivity is lost. There is simply no way around it. An effective manager is responsible for multiple projects and many people. When he tries to exert to much influence over too many things, he can’t help but to lose focus on the bigger picture. As attention becomes focused on one aspect of the business, the inter relationships and integration of projects becomes lost in the fog, or worse, on-going complementary projects are changed, and forced to fit with the project the manager is detailing. The higher the level of management, the more dangerous this becomes. If a CEO or COO becomes obsessed with production issues, he may loosen his grasp on things like sales and marketing or operations. By the time he fixes the production issue the point has become moot because sales have dried up.
When is it a positive?
When one project is not going as planned, or time constraints are dictating that the project plan needs more constant adjustment. At this point the manager can actuall help by micro managing. He is after all, the one who can make decisions, and quickly gather information from diverse groups to allow for reassigning of personnel or resources. A more detailed level of management will also give the manager or director an opportunity to better understand the processes and inner workings of the department. The most over looked benefit of micromanagement is the technical abilities of the manager. Both in keeping these skills sharp, and drawing on what is usually years of experience to help a project.
How do you avoid micromanagement?
The conventional wisdom is you avoid it by having detailed project plans and milestones that you can check on. But over the past five or ten years this has become a less reliable method of higher end management. The reason is the ease of use, and ease of changes to project plans because of software like Microsoft project. These programs allow for so much granularity that micro management is almost built in to the system. A better approach is to create summaries and longer term milestones that can be tracked within a simple spread sheet or list. This keeps the managers eyes off of all the small details and on the bigger picture.
How do you know when you are over managing?
There is no set rule of thumb. The surest indicator is if you are bouncing from project to project and person to person with most of your time. A good guide is to try and minimize your hands on attention to detail to know more than twenty or twenty-five percent of your time depending on the situation. The rest of your time should be spent on evaluating employees, budgeting, increasing the skill level of your staff, and other more traditional management functions.
Micromanagement is not in and of itself a bad thing. A detailed level of attention can and usually will lead to higher productivity and increased efficiency. But there’s a limit. And the higher your level of management, and the more responsibilities you have, the less leeway you have for over managing projects and people. The key is in understanding where the project really is, and what the level of expectation is. If things are on track, it’s best to manage from above. If several projects are foundering, you’ll need several project managers, or experts to help.