By Edward P. Youngberg

When you’re under pressure to deliver results, sometimes it’s tempting to take control over every tiny task from each team member. But doing it all yourself, or micromanaging, won’t ensure success.

Every IT manager and CIO has functioned as a project manager, and we all have our control-freak tendencies. But there is a line between being in charge and micromanaging. Are you guilty of crossing that line? Here’s how to tell when and how to step back into your appropriate role.

The symptoms
We all know a project manager who micromanages. No project task is too small for them to do without anyone else being involved. When assigning tasks to another member of a project team, these micromanagers demand complete plan details on activity all along the way to completion.

When reviewing a project, they tend to act like the proverbial Monday-morning quarterback, questioning everything. The micromanager expresses how she or he would have approached a particular task or objective in another, more efficient and effective, way.

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The temptations
I suppose we can all empathize with a project micromanager. And surely, we have all engaged in some form of micromanagement at one point or another in our careers.

We have all been a part of projects where some team members were new to the assignment or were not top performers. So there is temptation to slip into micromanaging to ensure a quality result.

Why are we tempted to micromanage? Well, being responsible for anything tends to bring out the “control freak” in technology professionals. The old adage, “If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself” surfaces. This is a combination of both a professional’s insecurity and lack of trust in other team members’ abilities.

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The impact
Micromanaging tends to stifle creativity and other valuable input from team members. The perception from team members is that no matter what they offer, it won’t be good enough and so they don’t participate. Team member interest in attaining goals is lost because the project manager refuses to delegate responsibilities. This severely diminishes motivation and future contributions from the team.

Regardless of the intellectual capacity or years of experience and accomplishments a project manager may have, he or she just can’t do everything. Team members grow and flourish when given assignments that challenge their skills and intellect.

Project managers also need to avoid the tendency to “critique to death” project tasks completed by team members. Everyone realizes the value in pursuing quality work, but people management is just as important. A good way to review a project is to commend the good results and then discuss ways to avoid any results that went badly.

Focusing too sharply on the unit vs. the process result also tends to send the wrong message that a team member could have done better. Most task results can be used effectively in meeting overall project objectives when tested and reviewed by other team members. Trying to always attain 110 percent effectiveness on something that is already 100 percent there not only wastes valuable time but money and staff resources as well.

The solution
Project managers can avoid micromanaging tendencies by applying team members’ talents, brains, skill sets, and experience to attaining the intended project objectives.

Team members seek leadership, not someone to do their jobs or overcritique every task completed. People feel good when they have a sense of accomplishment and feel that they’ve contributed to a project’s success.

In the end, it’s the project manager who is ultimately responsible for getting the project done on time and within budget. He or she is also tasked with meeting project objectives and attaining the quality result outlined by the client and senior management.

Orchestrating a team of highly skilled and qualified individuals with diverse personalities is no easy task. Attaining project goals and achieving results should bring out the best in every team member.

Success can be claimed when everyone is a part of the project process and has contributed to the project’s result.

Original publication on gantthead: September 28, 2001.

Have you been a micromanager?

Have you found yourself micromanaging during a project? How did you ultimately learn to avoid stepping over the line? Send us an e-mail and tell us about your experiences.