Thursday, December 23, 2010

Delegate, Don't Abdicate

I get concerned when folks arbitrarily say micro-management is a bad thing.  I agree that on a regular basis micro-management is a sign of a bad manager.  But on the other hand, a manager who doesn't know when to micro-manage is a probably a worse manager.

A manager is supposed to set the direction, clear the path, and then let staff get the job done.  Sounds great in theory.  Sometimes it's called empowerment, other times it's called delegation.  But delegation without control is abdication.

A manager who delegates and walks away is rolling the dice.  Sometimes the empowered team does a great job, other times they need a light to guide them.  Sometimes even the best and the brightest teams need ongoing managerial support.  Without a feedback and monitoring process they can easily lose their way.

There is nothing wrong with a manager getting involved in the details of the work when needed by the team.  The problem starts when the team needs help and doesn't know it.  A manager who sees the problem and blindly dives in to solve it will be accused of micro-managing, even if she or he is doing the right thing.  Staff will resent the manager's involvement and see it as interference.

The best managers set expectations early and clearly and monitor progress.  Before embarking on the journey, the manager sets thresholds and measures.  If the team veers off the planned path, predetermined triggers agreed to by the team engage the manager in the details.  That's not micro-managing - that's just common sense and good practice.

Good managers delegate work, but they don't abdicate accountability for getting the job done.


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