Management Myth 26: It’s Fine to Micromanage

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Managers Need Information
Sometimes, managers micromanage when they need information. In that case, it’s easier to create an information radiator rather than have the manager come running to you every thirty minutes. Or you can work with a buddy so that someone else is running interference for you, so you can concentrate on your technical work and some other manager will receive the information.

Often, a senior manager needs the information. You can ask your immediate manager to provide the cover for you. If that doesn’t work, see if a tech lead or someone else who has the manager’s respect will work with you. It’s worth a shot.

Team Members Have to Provide Feedback to Managers, Too
Managers need feedback to know that they are micromanaging. They don’t need to know when they are headed to the Ops meeting, but they need to know.

Damon explained to Sharon, “Here’s where Heath is right now. I’ll be working with him for the next hour, so you can be sure we will be making progress. And there’s something else I want to discuss with you. Check with me when you return, OK?”

“No problem. Maybe by then, you two will have fixed the problem,” Sharon replied.

When Sharon returned from the Ops meeting, she checked with Damon. “OK, I’m ready. Did you two fix the problem?”

“Not yet. Heath has a good handle on it right now. I’m going to work with him later. But I need to talk to you about something else.”

“Oh, what’s that?” Sharon asked.

“When you ask Heath for status that often and tell him how to design and implement, you’re micromanaging him. Are you aware of that?”

“Well, no. I thought I was being a good mentor or coach. I thought that’s what good managers did.”

“No, good managers offer suggestions—if people want them. You can ask, ‘Would you like help?’ And if people say, ‘No, thanks,’ you back off. Believe me, I know how tough this is to take. Even as a tech lead, I want to tell people what to do sometimes. But I can’t. I can offer, but I can’t make them do things.

“When you were promoted, did anyone ever tell you about delegation?”

“No, no one ever did,” Sharon admitted.

“Hmm. Do you ever have one-on-ones with your manager?”

“Oh, no. Steve says he’s too busy. I’m winging it.”

“That’s a problem,” Damon said. “If you want, I can tell you what I know. Joakim is a great manager. I’m just a tech lead, so I don’t do ‘management’ per se, but I have a lot of the same quandaries. If you want, we can meet once a week and I can tell you what I know.

“That sounds great.”

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User Comments

1 comment
Madhava Verma Dantuluri's picture

Very good topic and i totally agree. I being transformed from tech to managerial now, its really tough to delegate to the team. Thats the challenge am working on and your tips are very good. Will have to follow them.

February 13, 2014 - 11:25am

About the author

Johanna Rothman's picture Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” helps organizational leaders see problems and risks in their product development. She helps them recognize potential “gotchas,” seize opportunities, and remove impediments. Johanna was the Agile 2009 conference chair. She is the technical editor for Agile Connection and the author of these books:

  • Manage Your Job Search
  • Hiring Geeks That Fit
  • Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects
  • The 2008 Jolt Productivity award-winning Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management
  • Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management
  • Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People

Johanna is working on a book about agile program management. She writes columns for Stickyminds.com and projectmanagementcom and blogs on her website, jrothman.com, as well on createadaptablelife.com.

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