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Micromanagement (command and control) vs. microemployees

“Basing our happiness on our ability to control everything is futile.”
Stephen R. Covey, American author (1932- )

Dilbert, of course, has a take on this.
“Micromanagement is part attitude and part action.
Attitude: Tell yourself that every one of your employees is dumber than a Yugo full of anvils. They need your help!
Action: Pitch in to give your employees helpful guidance on every little thing they do, from paragraph indentation to complex microchip design theory.

“Micromanagement can also be applied to technical decisions. Let’s say, for example, your employee has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. And let’s say that you almost graduated from Ernie’s College-o-Rama with a degree in art history. You can use your superior education, combined with your impenetrable logic to find and correct the mistakes of your worthless employee, this demonstrating your value.”
Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook as told to Scott Adams, 1996, section 2.22

Collaboration over Command and Control
From an April 3 article on gantthead.com
“Knowledge workers need work environments where experimentation is rewarded, people are encouraged to pursue their interest and shared leadership is the preferred model.

“Command-and-control organizations are in fact toxic to knowledge workers. They stifle creativity….They demotivate workers….people will either leave or have the passion and creativity squashed out of them until they become unproductive drones who rarely create exceptional value.”

The opposite is microemployees

Microemployees don’t try to make decisions but run to their leaders to ask question after question. No solutions, just questions. It could be a person new to a job or to a responsibility and the person has not had the needed orientation, training, education or experience.

Today’s workplace should not be a one-way path
Each person is different. Different competencies, different levels of adventuresome spirit (early adapters maybe), different experiences, different levels of self-confidence. Whether you’re a team leader, a team member, a manager or an employee, it pays to observe and respect how others function best and work with people in the mode that is comfortable for them. In all cases, there needs to be open communication. Room for opinions, suggestions and questions. Asking that one question that is the most civil of all, ‘What do you think?’

I don’t want to be micromanaged nor do I want to be a microemployee, but I may need different levels of guidance on different projects. If I work with a microemployee, I may need to help that person get some more training or mentor him to build his confidence. If I see micromanagement, I see a lack of respect of the knowledge… the formal education, continuing education and experience… of the workers. A very real dichotomy if you work at an educational institution.

Resources

www.gantthead.com is for IT project managers; don’t let that scare you. I find many articles that work for me, the IT illiterate. Good business articles, good project management articles. You do need to sign in (no cost) to get to the articles…well worth it. The article cited is really, really good, http://www.gantthead.com/content/articles/235799.cfm
It’s OK to Micromanage…Sometimes, http://www.2-speed.com/2006/12/its-ok-to-micromanage-sometimes/
The Eight Rules of Management, Rule #2: Don’t Micromanage, http://www.refresher.com/!rule2.html
Why Boards Micro-Manage and How to Get them to Stop, http://www.help4nonprofits.com/NP_Bd_MicroManage_Art.htm

Comments

The ganthead.com quotes speak especially well to a unit such as Extension Communications and Marketing. Our services and products are continually on display and open to evaluation by several audiences. Feedback often covers a full range of opinions, even about one product. Administrators who respond to a single complaint by insisting that we redirect our time to cover that complaint don't see the larger picture. They usually create havoc with schedules and cause delays in services and products for other clients. Administrators who attempt to induce creative thinking by bashing the creative level of current services and products and by inserting themselves in the approval process only foster fear, the enemy of creativity. The following quote by Joseph Chilton Pearce speaks to the problem.

"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong."

Rather than micromanage, administrators should be aware of "sources of light" for their knowledge workers, then step out of the way, as John W. Gardner illustrates in the following.

"When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for the famed teacher, Diogenes replied: 'Only stand out of my light.' . . . one of the best things we can do for creative men and women is to stand out of their light."