Let me tell you about Mike. He’s a Manager at a mid-sized company. He’s weary in soul & spirit.

In charge of a department of twelve, Mike bears the ultimate responsibility for his unit’s performance or lack thereof. He’s played this role for ten years and is now trapped by his own success. The unit can’t function without him. Mike is proof-reader, quality controller, chief negotiator and chief accounting officer, all at the same time.

It seems Mike needs to practice a concept I once learnt in project management class – Management by Exception. Essentially, Management by Exception states that a company cannot run effectively by micro-management. Instead, managers should define the scope within which team members may operate, and then step in only when they go out of scope. Managers must learn this art, or else they’ll be stuck overseeing minutiae; never moving on to bigger and better things. Worse, the company won’t be able to afford to let them grow, because if they change roles, everything will unravel.

Mike needs to ensure that his team members have clear job descriptions and stated deliverables (with review milestones and timelines). That way, Mike only needs to track output and not process, giving his team breathing space to work uninterrupted, until they reach each milestone. Eventually, star team members will come to the fore – those who repeatedly attain milestones with minimal default. For those reliable team mates, Mike can then extend the timelines between milestones, spending even less time supervising them.

Mike must penalise those who miss milestones. They drag down the productivity of the entire system, frustrating achievers. He should also keep a leader-board of attained milestones, so the whole team can see how they’re doing relative to one other. Competition is healthy and name & shame works. Keeping score reduces resentment when you promote star achievers. It’s clear to everyone that they deserved it.

At some point, Mike should also take stock of which team members have administrative capacity and so, can be groomed for succession, while he moves on to other assignments.

I hope these tips help Mike. I wish him every success.

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