Here’s an example of a major human capital issue and one that if dealt with sensitively and humanly could make a big difference in our organizations and toward productivity and innovation.
This issue that I am referring to is micromanagement.
How many people like to be micromanaged?
Of course, that’s a rhetorical question! Yet, micromanagement is a pervasive problem in our organizations. Twice this past month alone, articles have appeared in mainstream publications on this issue.
Here’s the first one. The October 20, 2008 issue of Federal Computer Week had an article entitled, “Are you a Micromanager?”
This piece recounted an FCW Insider Blog the prior month that asked “How could your agency or manager make you happier and more successful on your job?” To which, the first comments from a DoD employee was the following:
“We have no trust, therefore, we have micromanagement. Of course, there can be no empowerment for employees in this culture. Innovation and creativity are the enemies of senior management.”
Another read wrote:
“Because of the micromanagement, we spend up to 50 percent of our time proving that we are accountable by writing justifications and filling in data sheets showing that we are working!”
Here’s one more to think about:
“I resent being micromanaged as if I am a child, not a professional.”
Then on November 3, 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported “Micromanager Miss Bull’s-Eye.”
“Leadership experts say micromanagers…share an unwillingness to trust subordinates.”
Here’s what the authorities recommend:
“Clearly articulate expectations
Focus on hiring and placement of subordinates
Give employees decision-making power [as appropriate, of course]
Encourage questions and suggestions
Offer constructive feedback
Don’t grab the reins at the first sign of trouble”
The best managers provide meaningful and challenging work to their employees; facilitate the work, but do not actually do it for them; explain to employees what to do, but not how to do it; and let employees make mistakes and learn and grow from them.
To do this, managers needs to learn to have faith in people, listen to their employees, understand that employees are not only working on the project, but on their careers as well, make people feel safe to make honest mistakes, and of course, recognize and reward performance and promote diversity.
Mike Lisagor, a management consultant, put it well when he said: “Every manager can make a difference and the more enlightened the manager is, the more enlightened the organization will be.”
I agree with Mike. We need to change how we manage our human capital. As managers, and as organizations, we can and must do better. And I would suggest that we include this as part of our enterprise architecture efforts. The sooner, the better!