Micromanaging is underrated

2020-02-04 2 min read

    A common belief is that micromanaging is a poor way to manage. I subscribe to this view - it’s demotivating to have someone second-guessing every step and eliminates agency and autonomy. I’d rather have someone make a few mistakes and learn along the way rather than impose a top-down view that disincentives growth.

    While reading Bob Iger’s biography, I came across a simple statement from his former boss and Disney CEO, Michael Eisner: “Micromanaging is underrated.” That gave me pause. So often we hear that micromanaging is terrible and no effective manager does yet here’s someone incredibly successful leaning into it. Bob Iger distances himself away from this black and white view by discussing finding the balance while admitting that in many cases the details do, in fact, matter and it’s up to the CEO to make sure the output of the team is as polished and great as possible. The passage reminded me of Steve Jobs and his reputation for being incredibly detail-oriented and obsessive. In many ways, his approach was all about micromanaging and yet Apple made some of the most incredible and breathtaking products. Clearly there’s some value in micromanaging.

    There are always the great CEOs who go against the norms yet get results but for the rest of us it’s important to find the balance. A good leader doesn’t need to be involved in everything but should care about everything. She should know when it’s important to step in and when it’s useful to look away. There’s no right answer here and it depends on the leader, the company, the culture, and the product. What is important is to realize there are very few absolutes and to consider a variety of options when making decisions.