Minimize Micromanagement on Your Project Team

The project manager has to continually determine the line between acceptable amounts of guidance and support and excessive intrusion and hovering. Micromanagement is a person’s excessive, inappropriate, and unnecessary involvement in the details of a task that he asks another person to perform. Whatever the reasons for micromanagement, it can lead to inefficient use of personal time and energy, as well as tension and low morale among staff.

Figure out why you may be micromanaging

If you’re concerned that a person on your team may feel micromanaged, you first need to clarify why you may be spending excessive amounts of time with that person. Following are several possible situations, along with suggestions for how you can deal with them:

  • You’re interested in and enjoy the work. In this case, consider setting up times to discuss interesting technical issues with the person rather than dropping in unexpectedly.

  • You’re a technical expert and feel you can do the job best yourself. If you feel this way, remind yourself why you assigned the task to the person in the first place. Realize that you can’t do all the project tasks yourself, even if you might be able to do each one better than the person to whom you assigned it.

    Ensure the person develops a plan for how she’ll perform the work and agree on a schedule for reviewing progress. Recognize her accomplishments as she achieves them, note any problems that arise, and promptly implement plans to get things back on track.

  • You’re looking for ways to stay involved with the team. Set up scheduled times to discuss project activities. Have each person submit periodic reports of project progress and make a point to stop by and say hello periodically.

  • You feel the person doesn’t have a clear understanding of how she can best utilize your knowledge and assistance when performing her task. If you feel this way, clarify the roles and responsibilities you and she should assume on your project activities. Explain how you can provide the person with useful support as you perform your work.

  • You feel that you have to stay up on the work the person is doing in case anyone asks you about it. In this situation, discuss with the person what type of information you need and when you need it. Work with the person to develop a schedule for providing progress reports that include this information.

Establish appropriate and productive relationships with the people you manage

If you’re micromanaging a person because you don’t yet have full confidence in his ability to perform, take the following steps to help develop that confidence:

  • Explain why you’re asking the person different questions and thank the person for taking time to answer your questions.

  • Offer to explain to the person how you will approach your tasks.

  • Work with the person to develop a scheme for sharing progress and accomplishments. Be sure to develop meaningful and frequent checkpoints. Frequent monitoring early in your work will reassure both of you that you’re successfully performing your assignments.

You can reduce or even eliminate most micromanagement by improving your communication and strengthening your interpersonal relationships. Here’s how:

  • Don’t assume. In other words, don’t jump to conclusions. Examine the situation, get to know the person you’re micromanaging, and explain what you’re trying to achieve. Expect to develop a working relationship with which you’re both comfortable.

  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Draw your first conclusion and take steps to address the situation. If that approach doesn’t work, reassess the situation and develop an alternative strategy. Keep at it until you succeed.

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