Sunday, March 15, 2009


We all have different management styles. Some claim to have adopted or adapted their ways from the experts; having attended one or a few seminars or workshops on management. Some are self taught - maybe using references such as the popular literature written by Drucker or digesting books on the experiences of successful people or companies (Trump? Starbucks? Toyota?). Also among the self taught are those who evolved from direct experience, often being thrust into the position because there were either no other choices, no one else qualified, or a consensus was made among qualified people. The last one is not unusual in organizations that have achieved a level of maturity and have established a system where there is a collective, proactive and cooperative effort to promote the thrusts of the organization.

While I would like to qualify myself and my office under the last, there are those who deny this. The sad thing is that those in denial are not even those who are within the organization and have only interpreted the organization according to their own grand plans rather than seeing the organization as being larger and relevant at a bigger stage.

While the organization is far from being flawless and despite stability in the past few years, it is still subject to occasional reality checks given its relationship with the national transportation agency and the continuing standoff with unaffiliated experts from the same university. Indeed, these are but temporary and ultimately, it is expected that the organization will come out for the better as it had always had in the past. After all, it is the premiere research and extension institution in the field of transportation - a fact that should not be lost upon insiders and outsiders alike including those who have and are to attempt to put the organizations under it (subsume?)

Which brings us to the subject of this blog entry - micromanagement. When does micromanagement apply? To what kinds of organizations will it be effective? IS it effective for my organization? Is it applicable to me? Or maybe the better question is - is it being applied to me? Management xperts would always have their opinions about micromanagement. I must admit I have very limited formal knowledge or experience in micromanagement but I am proud to learn about it from Dilbert!

From what I learned in the numerous Dilbert books I've read, micromanagement is supposed to be a style by which bosses could directly influence those under them to come out with results according to their specifications. While it can be an effective style - it can only be so if wielded by people like perhaps Donald Trump or Bill Gates. But wait, even Bill Gates and Donald Trump micromanage in a very limited way. And the guys in Google have proven that micromanagement is not exactly a prerequisite to success.

Micromanagement, if we are to believe Scott Adams, can demoralize an organization thereby endangering its outputs in bot quality and quantity. It can convey a message stating that the superior (if that word really applies) does not have any confidence on his/her people. It is a presumption that the superior is most knowledgeable in pretty much most of the things that are being done and are supposed to be done by an organization. But then, given an organization that has been trimmed down and is now top heavy with doctorate holders, engineers and planners, many of whom have practiced in the field of transportation for over 10 years and are veterans of offering, managing and conducting numerous training programs, who is to say that they do not know what they are doing.

Such an insinuation that they know not what they do and that the superior knows better is almost always confusing if at times, micromanagement is relaxed and the bosses make it appear that they can put their trust in the decision-making of those in the organization (especially the head). Thus, micromanagement can be both confusing and insulting if applied to an organization that is, well, organized as it is.

Micromanagement then, can be an exercise in the imposition of will(s) on an organization one has perceived and still perceives as not going by the norm. That norm though is subject to much debate and can be the subject of another blog entry. Is it good? Is it bad? Perhaps I am not the most articulate in discussing micromanagement and its effects on my organization. I am not a micromanager. I have all my confidence on the people I govern. And I am happy to state that this has led to our success. No not mine but our success. After all, the most important part of the organization is not its management but its people and one has to trust that the persons working with you (and not under you) will work towards the greater good.