There is this big movement (maybe just some folks grabbing onto buzz words, I don’t know we’ll see) to flatten the organization or, as D Pink emphasized in Drive, to create autonomy. As for project managers, we hear a lot about Agile and putting people before systems, embracing change, and how PMs are not sitting at the top but are a part of the team. Ty Kiisel wrote a great blog about Yum! and Boeing’s attempt to implement social media platforms in their orgs, in an attempt to create a more open, flat, collaborative work environment. With the speed of business faster then ever, virtual teams becoming the norm, and the talent pool more business/tech savvy then ever; I don’t disagree with the approach at all. As commented in Ty’s post, I am rooting for Yum! and Boeing to succeed in a big way. However, if I could reach over to the complete polar opposite side of this and say that micromanagement is something that should not be put in the archives of business concepts.
Yes, I believe there is a time and place for micromanagement and before we get into this, let me share Dictionary.com’s definition: ” to control (a business or project) with excessive attention to minor details.” So while it has taken on a negative connotation in the corporate world, it does not mean to control everything, make all decision, and be the final say on all manners.
I recently took on a new position…new company, project running for about 3 months when I got here, and the first time this business unit was leveraging a PM. Without getting into too much detail…the guy before me did a pretty good job and the business is working very well with the PM concepts, but there were a few issues I think called for some micromanagement. Every PM has heard this during a status call or other project meeting…”Hey John, that’s the process we discussed the other day in your office right?” As the PM you find yourself a little at ease. Did they solution something in a vacuum? Who else have they socialized this idea with? The problem is not off-line communication and the message isn’t to micromanage projects. The point is that one of the key aspects of a project managers job is communicator. Making sure everyone is up to speed on latest issues, decision, next steps, etc. So what I find myself doing when joining a project late or working with a group that is new to project management is asking them to include me in every meeting and cc me on every email. As I get caught up to speed, we will certainly pull this back but if I am going to get caught up to speed on the various work streams then I must know about them. I know this goes against everything society is talking about today and it definitely raises eye brows of your project team, but if you don’t then project will manage you and the team members will run you. If you get caught in the hallway by a key stakeholder your response will be “Let me check with Jon X)…not where you want to be as a PM. Have you heard of chasing cats tails or nailing Jell-o to a tree. A key benefit of project management is understanding how the functions effect one another, who’s effort has what effect on the critical path, and unified communication across all stakeholders. You can’t do that if you’re always catching up tos idebar conversation. Micromanage…give special attention to the minor details for a little while. Until you get ahead of it. Besides coming in late on a project, another potential spot for micromanagement is right at the end. You don’t need brand new ideas coming into play a week before you launch. It creates doubt, confusion, etc. If there is truly an issue or concern, then that should be funneled through the PM for analysis before getting the org in an uproar days from launch.
You need to move off of the micromanagement step as quickly as possible though. It goes right along with “I’m new, so…”. Both have their place and both are valid, but they both have a short lifespan of acceptance by your team/organization.