In a recent blog post describing how feedback control works and its importance to the effective functioning of any organization, I mentioned that organizations that are micro-managed are much less well able to respond rapidly to problems discovered lower down in the organization.
Through the deployment of Talent Chaser, we have discovered that this micro-managing behavior varies depending on the thinking style of the subordinate. This finding provides an insight into why some managers tend to micro-manage while others do not. By studying documentation generated, through the use of Talent Chaser’s Performance Appraisal and Task Action Planning Module, we have established that, while managers with specific types of thinking styles are more prone to micro-manage, all managers have a tendency to micro-manage under certain conditions.
Extrinsic Thinking Micro-Managers
It turns out that Extrinsic Thinking managers are much more likely to micro-manage when they manage Intrinsic Thinkers. The reason for this is that this type of subordinate tends to reach out to others much less for ideas. Because of this, they are much less likely to reach out to their supervisors, as a direct result of this, those managing Intrinsic Thinkers report that, on a day-to-day basis, they feel less well-informed regarding how their subordinates are performing and compensate for this by managing this type of employee much more closely.
To counter this type of situation, we encourage Intrinsic Thinkers to develop the habit of reaching out to others more often, even in situations where they are sure they have solutions to their problems. It turns out that, with careful mentoring, it is possible to turn this into a habit and either eliminate or significantly reduce problems associated with micro-management.
What tends to happen when an Intrinsic Thinking subordinate approaches their Extrinsic Thinking supervisor for help, is that the supervisor focuses on problem definition. In the process, the supervisor will often reach out to other employees for information and frequently will, as a result, develop a much broader understanding of the problems involved. During this process, it is also possible that the supervisor will garner ideas from other employees.
Where the supervisor comes back to the subordinate, with improved problem definitions, this usually prompts the subordinate to modify their ideas. Because their supervisor has given them a much better appreciation of the problems, these new ideas are actually better than those generated originally by the subordinate. As this type of process is repeated, the subordinate learns that approaching their supervisor is beneficial and improves their capacity to perform. Over time, this has the potential to improve:
(1) The way in which the subordinate solve problems.
(2) The relationship between the supervisor and their subordinate.
(3) The tendency of the supervisor to micro-manage.
It turns out that because Extrinsic Thinkers are much more likely to reach out to others in problem-solving situations, their supervisors are usually quite well informed regarding their day-to-day performance and feel much less inclined to micro-manage such subordinates.
Intrinsic Thinking Micro-Managers
Intrinsic Thinking managers are much more likely to micro-manage their Extrinsic Thinking subordinates. The reason for this is that these types of subordinates tend to reach out to their managers for help in problem-solving situations and, because Intrinsic Thinking managers like generating ideas (something they typically do well), they encourage such subordinates to come to them with their problems.
Because this process is motivating for both parties, it becomes self-sustaining. One result of this is that even though the manager remains well informed regarding the subordinate’s performance, it inevitably fosters a state of micro-management.
We have found that, by involving the manager’s upstream manager, it is possible to promote careful mentoring that can modify the way in which Intrinsic Thinkers manage this type of subordinate.
To achieve this, we encourage upstream managers to review the way in which their downstream managers are appraising their direct reports. Because the Talent Chaser Task Action and Planning process is a fully documented part of the appraisal process, it is possible for upstream managers to review this documentation and gain important insights into the way in which more junior managers are prioritizing and developing their staff.
One of the key ways in which upstream managers can help, is by ensuring that their downstream managers make it a policy that when employees come to them for help in a problem-solving situation, they must always bring some ideas. By enforcing protocols like this, it has proved possible to reduce micro-management throughout an entire organization.
Improving Organizational Responsiveness
The techniques described above are examples of the way in which feedback from the lower levels in an organization can be honed. The resulting elimination of micro-management yields improved delegation with more flexibility for employees lower down to use their initiative. This significantly reduces decision-making times and enables the organization to respond more quickly and more effectively in problem situations.