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The myths of micromanagement

By G. Balasubramanian

“Let us sit down and talk” Cynthia was telling her colleague Vishy who had submitted her papers. “There is nothing to talk Madam. It is done. You never allowed me to work freely. Every minute, every second you wanted to control me and what I did. You thought I had no brain, no skill, no expertise. I have completely lost my self-esteem. I can’t continue anymore.” Vishy walked away. Cynthia and Vishy are present in several organizations.

Baby had a similar problem. Her boss Mr. Chopra always changed whatever she did. “Baby, If I were to do this, I will write like this.” Though the changes he brought out were ridiculous and sometimes far below the quality of the document Baby had written, he had always felt he should change and that is what a boss is all about. Baby felt that her authenticity and creativity was being snubbed at every step by the ‘seniority’ of the boss.

Micromanagement is a common problem prevalent in several organizations. Bosses and professional leaders display an overdose of their wisdom and skill by interfering with the work executed by the members of the team at every step, too many times and too frequently. The urge to micromanage things becomes a pattern in the brain of some leaders and a few believe that is also an expression of their commitment, loyalty and devotion to the organization or its processes. It is important for leaders to understand the myths about the concept of micro-management.

1. Micromanagement is a demonstration of effective leadership.

Unfortunately, it is not. Micromanagers are not appreciated, respected, or celebrated by the members of the team. The team tends to believe that it is an indirect expression of the ‘monarchic’ model of leadership. They often tend to take back seats in any discussion and don’t enjoy being participative in any actions initiated by such leaders. In such environments, focus on problems continue to exist rather on solutions. They feel subjugation to authority as an act of slavery.

2. Micromanagement is a way of effective control on the system.

Not necessarily. While the leader feels that he is in control of every step in the process flow, the team tends to execute the work to satisfy the leader and to tick the listed points in the workflow rather than application of mind to every stage of the process. In such systems, there is a tendency ‘to pass the buck’ in the flow and avoid responsibilities consciously. “You will become as small as your controlling desire, as great as your dominant aspiration” says James Allen.

3. Micromanagement helps in improving quality.

It need not. “Micromanagement is the destroyer of momentum” says Miles Anthony. In several systems of micromanagement, the team tends to raise too many questions and have too many doubts in their head- the simple reason being to execute what the leader aspires to. There is less personal commitment to quality from the members of the team.

4. Micromanagement helps in enhancing productivity.

It is uncertain. The productivity of any system depends on several factors and not exclusively on the typology of the management in a team. The absence of personal commitment, the absence of passionate shared vision and other things tend to make the members of the team to stay distant from the total value delivery in organization. Their concerns stay with execution at their desk. “Micromanagement is an obstacle to be overcome rather than a method to command” says Terry Mixon.

5. Micromanagement facilitates handholding of people.

It does not. People tend to learn from their peers and co-workers and co-learners rather than from their leaders and bosses. They avoid any over exposure to boss or a leader for their being exposed or misunderstood or underrated on a periodic basis. Sometimes they do think that it is a challenge to their own creativity and innovation. Says Jeff Bezos “Micromanagement is the enemy of innovation.” Freedom to work and learning from one’s own mistakes is a better way the workforce of an organization tends to enjoy.

6. Micromanagement helps in effective vigilance.

It need not. The more a leader tries to micromanage systems and people, the members tend to find alternate ways of shedding responsibility and accountability. The leaders who think they have more powerful vision, accuracy, and sensitivity to details, or those who think that they follow up the performance profile of their team members more closely are often mistaken. These attempts lead to lack of trust and the confidence connects between the leader and the team gets week. The systems tend to move towards instability over a period.

Micromanagement concepts do well in articulate planning, process definitions, resource mobilizations, productivity tracks and performance enhancement their limited value cannot be taken as a broad-based long-term method for any organization. Says Steve Jobs “Micromanagement makes best people quit.”

Here is an excerpt from an article “Micromanagement is not the answer” by Eric J. McNally, co-author of the book “you’re it: crisis, change.”

“Micromanaging gives a manager the illusion of control. Yet it is, indeed, an illusion. The reams of data collected from hyper-observation will not track enthusiasm, commitment, or the satisfaction of either workers or customers. Moves that put people into a defensive, fear-based state create a downward spiral of evading punishment rather than seeking reward. As the cynical old saying goes, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” It simply will not work.”