How to handle the micromanager? Raise your hand if you love working for a micromanager? Are you a micromanager? You can raise your hand if you are, no one else knows, actually everyone already knows.
Micromanagers grind work to a halt. If there is no confidence in work getting done, the fish rots from the head down: the management is to blame.
The solution: recruiting, TRAINING, and retaining people who have the ability, competency, confidence, and authority to perform their job. Micromanagers sap motivation and cause more grief by checking, double-checking, asking for reports, and rechecking their workers. Micromanagers are the bottle-neck for decisions and strategic performance.
The grand solution: manage strategy and your organization like a timeline.
When you think about strategy and results as a timeline you realize not only how unlikely your strategy is to succeed, but more directly, who your true boss is:
- Need something done today? Who do you rely on?
- Need something done in 3 months? Who do you rely on?
- Need something done before the end of the year? Who do you rely on?
- Need something done beyond 5 years? Who do you rely on?
It should be obvious that when people mix needs of each timelines of a day, a month, or a year, that they have different stakeholders, different customers, and of course different bosses. Each timeline relies on different performance expectations. As I’ve said to many clients, “fire de jour is an operating strategy for a broken organization”.
One of the best discoveries I’ve had in business thinking over last 3 years came when I discovered Requisite Organization. Initially, I found out about Requisite Organization while working at Deloitte Consulting from Michael Raynor, a Distingquished Fellow with Deloitte, and his book The Strategy Paradox. Mr. Raynor modifies Requisite Organization to Requisite Uncertainty, but for this blog the concepts remain similar.
In essence, strategy, like predicting the future, becomes more difficult the longer the timeline: need something tomorrow, you might have a 50% accuracy of predicting an event; need something in 5 years, there is a pretty low probability you can accurately predict the likelihood of that outcome. The longer the timeline, the larger the variables and the larger the variables, the larger the risk: both known and unknown.
So take a corporate strategy, any corporate strategy. At the executive level (C-level suite), the operational level (directors, business unit leads, regional managers), and the technical level (do-ers, skilled workers, producers) each have different needs and these needs are really based on how time plays a role in variables and risk at each the level:
- Executives care about the health of the organization 5 years and beyond, their goal is to not only assure the organization both exists in 5 years, but healthier 5 years and beyond;
- The operational level is concerned about all that happens within the year, mainly how to execute the operations from 3 months to a year that will combine to deliver to the executive, or 5-year, strategy; and
- The technical level is concerned about getting their work turned around from 1 day to 3 months. That is where they need to deliver, they provide the work that combines to deliver to the quarterly and annual results – they deliver to the operational demand
Here’s the part I love: executive and operational levels can combine for a robust dialogue and planning session, after all the operational level should provide great insight into the needs at a more specific level, but after the executive strategy is finalized, there is no more dialogue, no more alternatives and the operational level now turns their attention to the 3 month to 1 year horizon.
At the 3 month to 1 year horizon they, the operational level, have been empowered by the executives with complete flexibility to modify and react to the changing marketing, economic, or business demands. And the executive team must not micromanage or poke their nose into the operational sphere. Executives have to provide complete flexibility, hear updates, and be available for counsel, but really empower their people to make it run within that year. Executives may now rely on quarterly reports to understand if the program is on track or off track and what options the operational team have tried or will tried.
Just as the executive level needs to keep their view at the 5 year horizon and maximize all their effort to learn about shifting conditions, the operational level looking at 3 months to 1 years, must, in turn, not interfere with the technical level. Though the executive strategy has been cascaded to the operational timeline, the technical management has now taken work packages apart to assign resources to plan to get all the things they need to deliver from 1 day to 3 months.
The operational leads, in turn, should empower their technical team and their management to use their ability to modify and make adjustments to meet the timelines to deliver. They operational leads should not micromanage, they should empower.
When strategy is converted to time, it really provides great framework to assign resources, manage risk, empower employees, communication, and clear out all micromanagement.
Good luck and I welcome your comments.
Check out Michael Raynor’s great book here where he also talks about scenario planning and strategic flexibility as organization enablers:
Also nice blog by Scott Berkun: An open letter to micromanagers