The virtues of micromanagement

Micromanagement does not have to be as bad as we make it seem. It may even become a necessary tool in certain situations. Here are 4 examples.

From the onset, the term micromanagement has a negative connotation to it, concedes Pierre Boudreault, CHRP and specialist in leader development. “Right away, we think of the boss who’s constantly looking over the shoulders of his or her employees.”

According to him, this bad employer trait comes from what we learn on the school benches. “Today, we teach management from a P.O.L.C. perspective (Planning, Organizing, Leading and Controlling). Too often, control takes over.”

At the other end of the spectrum, macromanagement also has its shortcomings, warns Boudreault. “There is currently a tendency to believe in the myth of the hero manager who develops their vision, sets standards and allows their employees to take over the project.” Unpleasant surprises are then highly likely.

Pierre Boudreault believes in ‘situational’ leadership, where different types of leadership styles suit different situations.

Here are 4 situations where micromanagement is required.


1. To supervise an employee who underperforms

Micromanagement can be used to get an employee back on the right path, in a punctual way and with specific goals in mind. “You meet the employee on Monday and give them their goals for the week. Meet again on Friday and review the results,” illustrates the HR specialist.

“If this becomes the norm, however, it may encourage dependency rather than autonomy,” he warns.

 2. To raise the bar

Ditto if it's the entire company which is underperforming. Micromanagement can be an opportunity to set objectives in the short term to see how each sector of the business performs.

However, the goal must be to improve the process, rather than controlling for control, says the leader. “We do not want to alienate the best team members or question their expertise.”

Information exchange can be done informally, through “problem-solving exercises, brainstorming sessions, …” says Pierre Boudreault. “As long as we trust our employees rather than mistrust them, we are on the right track.”


3. To ensure customer service

"Legend has it that Walt Disney banned air conditioning for his managers to ensure that they wouldn’t spend all day in their office,” says Boudreault. “In fact, he wanted his managers to spend at least 70% of their time in the field, to get to know customers.”

Being closely involved with customers is a winning approach. In case of a complaint, a manager can quickly identify the problem and correct it.


4. When we advance into the unknown

Launching a new product or developing a new business strategy usually demands a reworking of some of the company's activities as a way of adapting to the new context.


A wise manager will want to follow this process closely for a solid foundation. Micromanagement becomes the tool to guide a team throughout this process.

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