To me, management is:
- about hiring the right people
- telling them what needs to get done and why,
- giving them the tools they need and
- getting out of their way.
This might sound extreme. I don’t mean managers should leave their employees on their own without any supervision or accountability. Not at all.
Even the brightest people need a support from time to time to put them back on the right track.
Managers are responsible for making sure their teams understand the vision and stay on track. For inviting them to in the goal-setting process and listening to their feedback. For challenging their employees to perform at their best. For holding the team accountable for their actions.
The problem starts when managers get in the way of their employees and interfere with their ability to perform their duties and later wonder why it is so hard to retain employees. They don’t let a sense of ownership developer in their employees because of their inability to delegate and thinking they are responsible for all decision making.
Almost all organizational structures put managers at the top of the hierarchy implying that they are the ones responsible for all decision making. And most managers behave that way. DeMarco and Lister provide details of their encounter with one such “manager”:
one senior manager we encountered at a professional society meeting in London. He summed up his entire view of the subject with this statement: “Management is kicking ass.” This equates to the view that managers provide all the thinking and the people underneath them just carry out their bidding. Again, that might be workable for cheeseburger production, but not for any effort for which people do the work with their heads rather than their hands. Everyone in such an environment has got to have the brain in gear. You may be able to kick people to make them active, but not to make them creative, inventive, and thoughtful.
Micromanagement doesn’t work and is not productive. Get the right people on the bus and let them take ownership. Check-in regularly to make sure everyone understand where the ship is headed. Remove barriers and move heaven and earth to give the team anything they need to succeed.
Bad managers who believe their job is to “be an intimidating alpha male and to crack the whip” will see the productivity and quality go down in any job that requires people to use their imagination and brain power. Then they become defensive and start putting “processes” and “measurements” in place. The slow decline begins. People abandon ownership or adopt the “Meh. Why should I care?” attitude. Good people leave (physically or mentally) and they end up with yes men. The project is doomed. If it doesn’t fail, it will be of mediocre quality.
In Peopleware, DeMarco and Lister make a great point:
You take no steps to defend yourself from the people you’ve put into positions of trust. And all the people under you are in positions of trust. A person you can’t trust with any autonomy is of no use to you.
Good managers understand that the path to success starts by hiring the right people and developing a sense of ownership in them.