Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Intentional management 12: looking beyond simply managing personnel 8

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 10, 2014

This is my 12th installment in a series in which I discuss how management activity and responsibilities can be parsed and distributed through a business organization, so as to better meet operational and strategic goals and as a planned intentional process (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-11.)

I began a discussion of micromanagement as a management process failure in Part 11, and offered at least an initial discussion of how this arises in a management system. I then said at the end of that installment that I would continue this discussion here, focusing on management gaps and discontinuities. As one approach to managing through potential gaps and discontinuities, and I explicitly add dysfunctional overlaps in management action, I also cited how more senior management can take a referee approach to clarifying and resolving management impasses among managers who report to them and when managers of whatever level work with non-management staff. And I said that I would discuss same-level collaborative and other approaches to resolving potential decision making impasses, noting that together this will bring me squarely into a discussion of corporate culture as it shapes and addresses the issues of organizational and management structures and systems.

I will discuss all of these issues, and if not entirely within this posting, then in this series. But before doing so and to finish at least for now, the discussion started in Part 11, I want to more fully address why managers micromanage. And I add up front to this portion of this larger discussion that understanding and limiting perceived need to micromanage can largely eliminate this problem and certainly as an ongoing practice.

I begin here with the fundamentals. Most managers who micromanage already have at least enough work to do to meet their own work responsibilities to keep them fully engaged and very busy – and even without ever stepping in to expend the time and effort needed to take over the decision making responsibilities of others. Micromanagers tend to find themselves drowning in this larger work flow and it shows as their own hands-on goals and priorities become skewed and slip. Why do they do this? There are a number of possible answers to that question, all of which indicate structural problems in the organization’s management and leadership system. To cite just two possibilities here by way of example:

• Managers can slip into a micromanagement pattern when their business model and their business’ executive leadership that interprets it do not allow for delays or failure. The price of this insistence on achieving that most elusive of all goals: perfection is that no one in the business can take a chance on anything new and untried that might or might not work, so any possibility of creativity or innovation becomes stifled. When managers micromanage to keep any perceivable blemish of imperfection off of their theirs and team’s record because of this, that is a symptom of deep structural problems that can and will progressively eat into and hollow out the business’s capacity to compete as their competitors and the demands of their marketplaces change and evolve past their capacity to effectively respond.
• And as my second example here, managers can slip into a micromanagement pattern when they find themselves pressured into getting everything completed as quickly as possible and they keep seeing the work of the people who report to them, as work they could do faster and more easily themselves. This reflects problems in how timelines and priorities are set. But perhaps more than that, this reflects a fundamental lack of training. Some of that might very well be lack of adequate training and experience on the part of those who have to step aside as their boss steps in to take their work out of their hands. That raises questions as to why they were hired for or advanced into the positions they hold. But even more so, that reflects on the level of training that the managers who micromanage have received and on the quality of how their supervising managers work with and mentor them – or in this case fail to.

And this brings me very specifically and directly to those management gaps and disconnects and those dysfunctional duplications that I noted in Part 11 at its end, and then again at the start of this posting.

• Management process dysfunctions are red flags indicating larger more underlying structural organizational problems. They offer warning of possible systemic failure in what should be core organization infrastructure elements, such as ongoing training and performance monitoring, and remediation where problems are found.
• When they are limited and localized this may just reflect problems within one line or even just one branch of a line in the table of organization. When they are widespread and endemic, this reflects a level of problem that the senior executive leadership of that business should be focusing on as a high priority.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will delve more fully into the issues of management gaps and dislocations. I will also discuss there, the referee approach to working with and managing lower level managers and hands-on non-management staff, and I will discuss peer-to-peer approaches for identifying, clarifying and resolving these problems. After that and as noted above, I will discuss the role of corporate culture in all of this. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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