Stopping micro-management

Lately I tried micro management, and it was not a major success.

I experience some flaws in a colleagues work, mistake and oversights, on matters wich concerned my unit. I asked around to find out if that was common in his work for other teams and it appears that it was. The lad was overworked, overstressed and in a few weeks from his holidays. Everyone was hoping of a quick recovery after this break. I then chose to micromanage him until the break. This entailed:

  • Checking various times a day that he has done what he promised, to guarantee on time delivery,
  • Booking time slot reminder in his diary for missions he was supposed to execute with my team, to guarantee fulfillments,
  • Reading the correspondance he sent in my teams name, to ensure clarity and exactness,
  • Pulling him off any non priority projects, to release some pressure on his shoulder;

Despite my efforts, I missed a major misunderstanding of my colleague, leading to larger problem that the client did not appreciate. We could resolve the problem before anything major occurred. I had the feeling I wasted a lot of time in supervising to avoid the unavoidable. I face criticisms despite my every efforts which had a taste of injustice but they were actually right in a sense.

I was completely mislead – as we sat in the same briefing and received the same next steps – to believe we both understood the outcome. Micromanaging made me believe I was on top of things, where I was not as the problem was already there before I started. No one can rewrite the past, so i took on the lesson and make sure I understand the most important parameters before managing the execution.

Now, I am working on my method, involving a step by step approach :

  • Preparation first to ensure deep understanding,
  • Assessing the knowledge necessary to execute the task,
  • Brief the team to get them to comprehend the whole picture,
  • Assign an owner to deepen
  • Make sure the team has the elements to move forwards owing their mission,
  • Be present for the team to help with decisions when experience is needed
  • Support workload to guarantee timely delivery.

Changing is hard, even for an adaptable person. I am keen on efficiency and I do hope people will crave understanding which would force me into explaining every single details, but they don’t always have this level of natural engagement. I need to ground myself to be meticulously sharing details and cues for my team to feed on. At the same time I am afraid of information overload which could lead them to more confusion, hence my habit of not giving too much at a time.

I would love to have your experience on how you manage the project setting in a complex environment with limited ressources, I am sure some around have useful tricks and solutions which would apply to all. Do not hesitate to share.

Asking questions

Man should rather spend an hour with a wise man than ten years in books.

A Chinese proverb

As an unexperienced adult, I was not afraid to ask questions as I did not have much to loose. It was easy to ask but it did not always mean that young people have the right questions just yet. When one grows old, one may have the right questions but not always the will to risk anything to obtain an answer.

Everyone should believe in its own right to become a better person by learning something new everyday – the easy way to do this is actually to ask questions.

By asking questions, I realised that the majority of my surroundings were happy to share answers, experiences, information and even personal wisdom. This can create a virtuous circle that give again more will to ask, but also accept when there is not a positive feedback. I am grateful everyday for the chance I have to be so well supported and equipped with others knowledge to move forwards.

Spanish are pragmatic, they have a proverb which reads “el no ja lo tienes “: the “no” you already have. I have to admit that it came in my life as a revelation of something I know deep in my heart but had not yet put words on.

Go ahead – ask – nothing is to be lost anyway.

If you need one extra reason for asking questions, remember that it keeps the conversation going between you and your network.

« What to ask? » one might say.

In a professional context, there are 4 simple starting points:

  • Example: when explained a theory, one can believe it is clear, but examples are never useless to picture clearly.
  • Context: when describe a situation or told an experience, the teller do not always provide context and usually have one angle of view. Do not hesitate to question context to understand better where the story comes from.
  • Outcome: what happen after the end of the story ? What were the consequences or learning to take out of the story.
  • Resource: if the topics interests you, do not hesitate to request extra material and ressources to get a deeper understanding of it.

In a personal context or during networking events or ice-breaking exercise, you may need to include other types of questions.

Check the following lists as fun to read as it can be awkward to use, but it gives you some good examples.