The Meaning of Micro-Management

“Move over, let me take the console. Why don’t you just watch me?” Charlie insisted.

This was the ultimate in micro-managing.

Charlie, the supervisor, observing a mistake, simply took the project back under wing and proceeded to do the work himself.

Of course, for the past twelve minutes, Charlie had berated the team member for not being fast enough, taking things out of sequence and ultimately falling back to the old way of doing things.

As a supervisor, Charlie had been working to get his team of telephone operators to record data in real time on the computer, rather than using paper in a two-step delayed process. In fact, Charlie got the job as supervisor of this team because he had used this real-time process at another company. He was the best telephone operator on their crew. When he came here, he picked out the software, but had been unsuccessful in getting the operators to use it. Eight months later, they were still writing paper tickets and entering the data later, if they remembered.

Charlie’s behavior, as a supervisor, demonstrated the subtle difference in dealing with mistakes by a micro-manager and a coach. As a micro-manager, Charlie focused on the task and the method (mistakes). The more he focused on the task and the mistakes, the more he drove the operators back to the paper system they were comfortable with.

I let Charlie be a telephone operator for another eight minutes (he was really very good) before I pulled him aside. Do I praise him for being a great telephone operator or admonish him for micro-management?

One thought on “The Meaning of Micro-Management

  1. Joel

    Kind of both, using the dual approach to emphasize the point of his new role, not his old role. He should not get his hands dirty except for a staffing shortage – which he will get if he keeps it up (learned that by experience the hard way). Not a fun world if he gets there.
    The more “hands-off” he can get, the higher-functioning management style he will exhibit and the more he will push out the new methodology, by not *doing their job*.


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