Invisible Micromanagement

New managers will know that micromanagement is bad. In the software development world, micromanagement tends to be particularly bad, because it often means a manager who is out of date with technology will meddle in decisions best left to the current technical experts.

However, the absolute condemnation of micromanagement (which, by coincidence often goes hand in hand with macho management) seems to be a contradiction for new managers. If you don’t know exactly which of your staff is earning how much on which project, what they will be doing next, what makes them happy, how they like to work, who they will work well with, then how can you be sure of how your team will perform next month? Next year?

In order to keep your team happy and get the best out of them, you also need to know facts unrelated to business. Think about it: who on your team has school-aged children? Do you want to make them work hard during school holidays, or arrange projects so they don’t need to spend long hours in the office? Who just had a new baby? You don’t want a new Dad on a project deadline death march.

The solution to this conundrum is invisible micromanagement.

It’s pretty simple really: talk to people. No need to be over bearing or a traditional micromanager. Just chat. Ask about work, life, etc.. Go away and record this information. Keep a spreadsheet or notes for each person. Retain the information without having to keep it in your head.

Refer to your notes regularly. Perhaps a brief glance each week to see if anyone has a birthday or important event coming up. Got a new project on the boil? Check the sheet to see remind you who has a good set of skills to apply to the project.

You’ll also need to refresh your notes when new people come on board, or circumstances change.

Record. Retain. Refer. Refresh.

Eventually you should find that your notes become less and less important, and you can recall important facts automatically. Also remember: this is invisible micromanagement. I’m not advocating getting involved at a project or technology level – you should have the trust in your team to get those things done.

You will find that the result of invisible micromanagement is less stress for you at a management level, because you’re not having to deal with unexpected scheduling issues. You’ll also find that it’s easier to be nice.

Next time: A treatise on billing and utilisation.

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