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TODAY’S STORY
26 Oct
,
2022

Micromanagement starts with an unclear brief.

Stoa Daily Challenge #9

Step into the shoes of Anmol Deep Singh — the strategy and expansion lead for cult.fit — to expand cult.fit's physical presence and get them ready for an IPO.

Play the challenge here.

Now, to today's issue.

——

I want you to imagine this scenario:

You want to shoot out an email to recruiters discussing a potential collaboration. You ping your copywriter and you tell her:

"Hey, can you draft an email by EOD asking recruiters to hire from us?"

The copywriter gets back to you with a draft. You read it and you say,

"Hey, the email is going out in my name, not in the company's name. So write in first-person instead of third-person."

She says, "Okay, I'll fix."

She comes back to you with the revised draft. You read it and then you say,

"Hey, can you shorten the email a bit? It's too lengthy right now. Needs to be just two small paragraphs as I'll be using the same copy for direct messaging on LinkedIn."

She says, "Okay, I'll work on it."

She comes back to you with yet another draft. You read it and you say,

"I don't think this tone is working. Needs to be a bit formal as I'll be sending it to experienced recruiters at MNCs. This sounds too casual right now. It might not go well with them."

She says, "Okay, let me revise it."

(Meanwhile, her frustration grows, quietly.)

She comes back to you with another draft. You read it and you say,

"Okay, this looks fine. Can you add a section that mentions the requirements they will need to fulfill in order to be eligible? And yeah, make sure you don't exceed two paragraphs."

It's already 10 pm right now. She is still in office, seething. And the thought of quitting has already entered her mind.

This, my friends, is one of the two primary reasons for micromanagement: an unclear brief.

(The other one is not trusting your team to do a good job at all.)

You might feel that if I specify too much, my team members will think I'm micromanaging them. Not true.

Great managers know that adding specifications during delegation is not a form of micromanagement. Instead, micromanagement consists of delegating an abstract task and then adding advice or new specifications once the task is complete or semi-complete.

To avoid this, start with a clear brief:

  • What needs to be done
  • The context needed for why we are doing it
  • What the end outcome needs to look like
  • The hard constraints we are working with
  • How performance will be measured

The best way to avoid micromanagement is to delegate with all specifications you deem objectively or subjectively important so that you won’t be tempted to add additional changes later.

The point is to create a solid box within which your subordinate can roam freely afterward. Failing to do this will not only increase overhead and make things super inefficient, but it will also build resentment among your employees.

Is it only the manager's fault if they fail to give a clear brief?

No.

As an employee, it is also your responsibility to understand what exactly is required and to ask as many questions as necessary to gain sufficient context around what exactly needs to be done and the purpose of doing it.

Refuse to work without a clear brief. And make sure you iterate quickly.

With bad managers, you will have to submit the first draft to actually know what the brief is!

Experienced creatives who have had the displeasure of working with bad clients know this. So, they push out a rough draft first and get feedback. It's a process of triangulating what your user wants from you, quite similar to how you build a product for a market.

However, in the case of the workplace, this is not ideal. Obviously. So, if this happens quite often, make sure you refuse to work without a clear brief and clear constraints.

Pair this read with: Some thoughts on how to delegate well

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