Vivek

The Bane of Micromanagement

Is having full control over situations or people really possible? Or, as master Oogway implied, it is just the ‘illusion of control’ that we feed ourselves.

Being humans, we are attuned to be in control of things around us.

When managing projects or teams, the need to control seemingly becomes even more drastic. Nobody likes failing. What will happen if I delegate a task to someone and it doesn’t get done in time or not the way I wanted it to be done?

Failure!!! Really?

In the context of managing big software development teams, there is a big opportunity to learn and grow as a professional leader. At the same time, with great opportunity comes certain challenges like opportune communication or entirely no communication, a team not aligning to their goals quickly or even deficit of trust within the team. There could be many more challenges based on the team dynamics. But, one of the key reasons why a team may not perform to its true potential is because its members may be getting micromanaged due to the illusion-of-control management style of the team leader.

What is micromanagement?

Instructing, instead of guiding, the team to do tasks and then monitoring their actions at every step.

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What do you lose when you micromanage?

Personally, you as a leader lose your time and energy. After a certain point in time, you are sure to feel burnt out and sacrifice your efficiency as well.

When doing so, it may seem the right thing to do but, on the other hand, the members can take your approach in a completely different way. For example, it can result in lowering their self-confidence, or they may start being dependent on you for the smallest of decisions. Or even worse, they may even start losing their trust in your leadership because you don’t trust them. Remember, Trust is always mutual.

It’s a trap

You inadvertently start micromanaging when you feel there is a gap between your expectation and the end result, consistently. It could also mean that either the task assigned takes longer than your own estimation or the end product doesn’t pan out as per your vision. Sometimes, you do not approve of the process followed to achieve the end goal because you are sure that your way is the best one. Over a short period, it starts doing work in your favour and you feel like doing it more, unfortunately.

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Avoiding micromanagement

  1. Articulate expectations clearly and keep an open door policy – Make your team members aware of your desired output and encourage them to ask as many questions till the time they feel confident of what is required from them. This step is very important because this completely removes chances of ambiguity and keeps you and your team members on the same page. Any deviation from this will now be a red flag and you will be able to foresee this. Make yourself accessible, so that they can walk up to you for any discussion. Encouraging this behavior will make them confident and instill the right attitude for building a product.

    Expectations vs Reality

  2. Create checkpoint schedule – Laying out your expectations is great but what next? The next step is to create a schedule for check-ins of the tasks they are assigned. Have them create a schedule where they can showcase what they have achieved by then and they can also ask questions so as to iteratively calibrate the compass of expectation.

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  3. Give autonomy and encourage ownership – Give them autonomy so that they can take decisions themselves. They will make mistakes but don’t discourage them. This may seem difficult at first but in the longer run it will be beneficial for you as well as for the organization. Give them resources or tools they need in order to efficiently perform their tasks. Also, encourage them to take ownership because if they do not own tasks completely then they would not feel a sense of achievement after completion and may not give their 100%. Ownership also fixes accountability and addresses the problem of passing the buck in case of any goof up. Giving autonomy and encouraging ownership helps them grow their problem-solving and team skills.

Have you ever fallen and come out of the micromanagement trap? I would love to hear your experience when you realized that there was another better way to manage teams.