The Monster of Micromanagement

As a parent and as a concerned parent, I always have a tendency to control activities of my children. At the back of my mind, I always have this feeling that 25 years back, I have already gone through what they are going through now and thus “I know better”.  This feeling then turns into a temptation to be authoritative and commanding parent.

But I kill that tendency, because I know, it is not going to do any good to them. I still exercise control on them but then I sprinkle behavioral and environmental aspects into my experience (of 25 years back) and accordingly influence my control mechanism.

Same applies to every business also. In managing day to day activities of business, apart from experience, managers rely on an important tool called Management Information System (MIS).

Every decision of business is based upon MIS. Control systems, feedback mechanism, operative tools, marketing tools, investment decisions, business practices, strategies all stem out of MIS. There are compelling reasons to assume that MIS actually is life blood of any organization. In today’s competitive scenario, it has assumed all important roles as today’s managers have to deal with an aggressive and dynamic environment where passive management (Often referred to as “Management by Exception”) fails many a time. MIS keeps today’s manager abreast of developments so that managing activities can be tweaked at short intervals to meet the dynamic and ever changing goals of the organization.

But there, at times a paradox is created.

At times the flood of information creates an impression that there is a need for control whereas in actuality there might not be any. This creates a cascading effect and within no time the monster of micro-management raises its ugly head.

A recent research says that Micro Managers – leaders who manage with excessive control or attention to detail are one of the biggest reasons employees divorce their organizations. People don`t quit companies; they quit people namely, their direct supervisors. Leaders who monitor their team member’s every move actually communicates that they don`t trust employees to get the job done and get it done right.

As in personal life, in official life too, trust is the most important factor to sustain the relationship. And trust, to be effective, needs to be demonstrated. The moment a leader starts excessive micromanagement, trust is compromised and cracks in the relationship begins to appear. This mistrust stem from same feeling which I as a parent sometime has. The feeling of “I know better”. If this trust is not rebuilt, people will look outside the current relationship to seek another healthier relationship.

There are many reasons as to why micromanagement comes into play. Businesses today are at a stretch. Efficient delivery of KPIs are the need of the hour. Leaders are under constant pressure to over perform. Demand for results is more aggressive than ever. Competition over resources is intense.

In such a scenario leaders feel that they have no choice but to maintain the tightest level of control possible to ensure that no penny is wasted. They may pressurize frontline managers to meet short-term goals rather than working with a strategy towards a vision. By doing so, these managers create even thicker barriers to protect their turf.

These barriers institutionalize the problem of fear. If leaders  are worried enough, they may feel forced to start controlling resources, projects, and people just to maintain control. They believe this is a solution to a temporary problem, but it rarely is. What starts out as a fear-based reaction can soon become standard operating procedure. Tight control becomes more and more prevalent, and it inevitably affects interdepartmental behavior. The whole scenario creates a low-grade siege mentality.

Organizations suffering from overbearing and superfluous micromanagement have following clear traits

  1. Lack of vision and strategy
  2. Short term goals in abundance
  3. Uninspiring and soggy workplace
  4. Hire and Fire approach and policies
  5. Bureaucracy embedded in systems and SOPs
  6. Excessive working hours
  7. Lack of training and soft skill development opportunities
  8. Restricted or tweaked information flow

In my opinion micromanagement is just personality oriented. People who have control and over-reaction as personality traits tend to micro-manage even when there is no need to do so.

The days of command and control organizations are long over. A good leader must recognize that in order to leverage skills and maximize team’s output they need to adopt a flexible approach and ‘lead’ their teams to excellence rather than closely supervise, instruct and control them. The best leaders communicate to their employees a vision and ignite in them the fire, motivation and desire to work towards making this vision a reality. Good leaders, to achieve success go through a step by step process. The process usually is as follows

  1. Communication of Top Level goals and objectives to Team
  2. Suggested blueprint for success
  3. Unleash the team to innovate
  4. Formalize the plan
  5. Ensure the team has right resources in terms of training, funding and work environment
  6. Ensure a system of formal and regular feedback and supervision
  7. Ensure continuous process of rejig, innovation, calibration and realignment is in place

I close this entry with this famous quote by Ronal Reagan. He executed the toughest job in the world “Being the president of United States of America” in the most turbulent of times and he did not micromanaged.

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you have decided upon is being carried out”

About bsbasan

Professional with over 20 yrs of experience managing business. A strategist, A thinker and an innovator. Experience in cross sectional functions in various industries like Chemicals, Apparels, Retails,Hospitality, Construction, Manufacturing, Services. Proven experience in Business Development, P&L,Finance, Risk Management, Strategic planning and organizational transformation. 20+ years record of success managing corporate finance & business operations for growing manufacturing companies with multistate and international operations. Made break-through improvements in business processes utilizing lean methodologies and Six Sigma principles. Currently designated as Chief Executive Officer of Texport Syndicate India Limited
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5 Responses to The Monster of Micromanagement

  1. Hi Basan Great work. I thorougly enjoyed reading your excellent article. Truly reflects practical scenarios. Unfortunate that many managers..leaders.. do not realise that they are eroding precious human capital and aswell are taking the business in a downward spiral. Keep up this good work of writing…..

  2. bsbasan says:

    Thanks Boss. Words of appreciation from a mentor…… will always mean something special…

  3. Bibhuti pradhan says:

    Yes true sir, micromanaging most of the time has degraded efficiency and restricted making of future leaders.

  4. bsbasan says:

    @Bibhuti – Micromanagers are actually different genre. In my opinion these are the people short on confidence and more importantly lack vision. They are incapable of providing leadership. To hide this incapability, they get into uncalled for detailing and suck everybody into the whirlpool.

  5. Magnificent points altogether, you just won a new reader. What might you suggest about your submit that you made a few days ago?

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