Expert Marketer Magazine

Is it ever ok to micromanage?

by Denny LongApril 2016

Simon tells me he’s a “hands-off” manager. He believes that you “just hire good people and get out of the way”. He adds, “You need to trust your employees to do their jobs.” 

Is it okAs I got to know him, Simon confided how he was fired earlier
in his career. He explained that he construction project manager for a design-build contracting firm and had over ten years successfully supervising single store tenant improvement projects. 

Then his firm got a large mega-project that was a new venture, with high visibility in his company. Simon got the project which he thought would be a great opportunity.

However, Simon realized too late that he was "over his head". He had never planned such a detailed, multi-layered project that required coordination of hundreds of employees and subcontractors. So the project got horribly behind in schedule with significant cost overruns. His boss stepped in to take over and Simon shared, “Someone’s head had to roll, so they fired me."

Think about this

Where was Simon’s boss when this work was first assigned? It’s like asking a private plane pilot to fly a commercial 747, today. The Big Idea: Micromanaging is situation specific.  

Learn the art of how and when to step in to give "close-managing". You know where to sweat the details with your people...and you can pull back afterwards to give back full responsibility.  Or you can give responsibility in incremental steps.

At the start Simon needed micromanaging to get started, which would include training, a check-ride review and “ride-along supervision” for his new responsibilities. He needed oversight management, milestone reviews, and spending limits.  

This is Managing Genius
Monday-mornings are a good time to check the calendar for "micromanaging moments" during the week. Do you have an employee who would benefit from a “deep dive” from you? Is there a new project or initiative that you should launch? Plan these into your calendar.

Keep an eye out for work that may need your extra scrutiny or attention, such as new work that is out of the everyday routine or that requires special skills. Watch for business issues that you can't afford to let flounder: key customers; critical path; issues that affect the entire group; "big ticket" budget issues.  Flag these for extra managing time and attention.

Check in with your people at planning meetings, milestone reviews, or budget reviews.  Ask yourself: Do they have the skill?  Do they have the will?

Finally, you can ask your employees to “micromanage themselves”.  Mutually discuss to identify when or where they might hit turbulence.  Ask questions to point out potential roadblocks or new roads. So you micromanage at the front end, not every step of the way.


Denny Long lives in Seattle and he is the recent author of the book “Managing Genius”. (Franklin Green Publishers.)


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