Need someone to lead product management at your software company? I create software for people that create software and I'm looking for my next opportunity. Check out my resume and get in touch.

This is the blog of Adam Kalsey. Unusual depth and complexity. Rich, full body with a hint of nutty earthiness.

Management & Leadership

Micromanaging and competence

Too many leaders are so afraid of micromanaging that they become completely hands off.

But giving instruction to build competence is not micromanagement. Neither is providing feedback. Avoiding instruction or feedback because you fear the micromanager label does a disservice to your employee.

If I’m driving with Frank and I say he should check his mirror more often, that sounds like obvious micromanagement. But what if I told you that Frank is my nephew and has only been driving for a week?

The context is important. Now I’m not micromanaging, I’m giving instruction to build competence. If I’m still telling him to check his mirrors 2 years later when he’s an otherwise competent driver, that’s micromanaging.

Competence is context dependent. I might trust Frank to drive me to the airport. But that doesn’t mean I’d trust him to fly the plane when we got there.

You can also provide detailed instruction without micromanaging if you have more information than the other person, as long as you also explain why you’re doing it. It’s It would be obnoxious to tell a friend who regularly drives a certain route that they should take the freeway instead of surface streets. But it’s informational to tell them they should take the freeway because this morning you saw a lot of new construction closing the surface streets.

Providing feedback can be seen as micromanagement unless you provide context. Without context, this sort of feedback is criticism. It’s criticism to tell Frank he drives too fast and changes lanes too often. But it’s feedback if you tell him that because he drives this way, all his friends are afraid to ride with him. If you didn’t provide this feedback, he might never know why his friends always seem to be busy when he offers to drive somewhere.

When building competence, providing new information, or giving feedback, you cannot be hands off.

Recently Written

Micromanaging and competence (Jul 2)
Providing feedback or instruction can be seen as micromanagement unless you provide context.
My productivity operating system (Jun 24)
A framework for super-charging productivity on the things that matter.
Great product managers own the outcomes (May 14)
Being a product manager means never having to say, "that's not my job."
Too Big To Fail (Apr 9)
When a company piles resources on a new product idea, it doesn't have room to fail. That keeps it from succeeding.
Go small (Apr 4)
The strengths of a large organization are the opposite of what makes innovation work. Starting something new requires that you start with a small team.
Start with a Belief (Apr 1)
You can't use data to build products unless you start with a hypothesis.
Mastery doesn’t come from perfect planning (Dec 21)
In a ceramics class, one group focused on a single perfect dish, while another made many with no quality focus. The result? A lesson in the value of practice over perfection.
The Dark Side of Input Metrics (Nov 27)
Using input metrics in the wrong way can cause unexpected behaviors, stifled creativity, and micromanagement.


What I'm Reading