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Team Micromanagement – Video

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Project teams have different cultures and attitudes toward the project and its manager. The project team members bring expectations based on their prior project experience as well as their attitudes about being on project teams. But the primary factor that determines the project team culture is the project manager’s behavior. This behavior includes:

  • assigning work to the team members
  • dealing with bad news and
  • handling pressure from the sponsor for earlier completions and deliverable changes.

How the project manager handles those situations sets the standard of behavior that the project team will quickly learn. Leading Teams Main Page

Watch this video of a planning blunder that many project managers make.

Project Planning Blunders: Too Much Detail

One of the most common (and ineffective) styles used by project managers is team micromanagement. Project managers tend to be very task oriented with a lot of focus on step-by-step procedures and documentation. It’s very easy for these PMs to believe that tight control comes from watching people closely and limiting their independent decision-making.  It doesn’t. Tight control comes from giving team members clear assignments that tell them exactly what the PM expects them to deliver. That is very different than the micromanager who decides what he/she wants as the task progresses.

So how do you tell if you’re micromanaging? The first thing to look at is your work breakdown structure. Scan down the list of tasks and look at the durations. Then take a look at which team member is assigned to each task. If you see a pattern where brand-new employees, your project rookies, have tasks that are 2 to 3 days in duration, that’s reasonable. If you have experienced team members who have tasks of just a couple days, that’s way too short. You want to look at opportunities for bundling their tasks into larger deliverables which you manage. Your subject matter experts should have even larger assignments, whenever possible. The idea here is to give the experienced pros on your team the freedom and flexibility to make many of their own decisions. That also increases their commitment to the task and satisfaction with the job. People like to be trusted to make good decisions. Micromanagers don’t get the benefits of team members’ enthusiasm and commitment to their tasks.

Another sign that you’re micromanaging is a line of team members outside your cubicle waiting for you to make decisions for them. Some micromanagers love that. The fact that all of those people are coming to “the guru” for decision-making thrills them. But it undermines the team members’ confidence and leads to a project team that is not focused on solving their own problems. We often hear micromanagers complain about their team members’ lack of initiative and independence. What we find is that the project manager him/herself has created those traits in the team members. Team members believe its safer to go to the project manager for decisions than to make decisions themselves.

Too many micromanaging project managers go overboard on the details.  This approach denies their team members any opportunity for feelings of achievement, independence or satisfaction in their work. Team MicromanagementThese PMs think this frequent checking and limiting team member decision-making gives them tight control of the project. That is absolutely false. What team micromanagement creates is a team that has no commitment to the project scope or the deliverables they are accountable for producing. They don’t all work together (or creatively) to meet the same goal. These team members only focus on doing exactly what the project manager said because that’s how they avoid getting into trouble. This often results in destructive behavior.  Team members may know that the project manager is wrong about something but they don’t bother to tell him/her. They merely do whatever the project manager says. Team micromanagement also creates situations where experienced team members, the people who have been around awhile and know the ins and outs of the technology and projects, play games. They entice micromanaging PMs to give incorrect directions and assignments that sabotage the project. Those experienced people are so discouraged with team micromanagement that they become vindictive and gladly watch the PM and the project fail.

Consider these micromanaging traits and decide if you exhibit any of them. If so, here’s an article on how to avoid being a micromanager.

You can learn all of the skills to become a successful project manager in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with an expert project manager who is your instructor and coach. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences with them as you wish. Take a look at the course in your specialty.

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