Micromanaging: a bad idea

puppetWe’ve all been there, I’m sure. We’ve worked for, or with, someone who quite figuratively can’t see the forest for the trees. Someone who fusses over every small detail of a project, process or workplace and who directs even the most minute function, whether it’s something he or she knows about or not.

Micromanaging, as it’s come to be known, is the bane of corporate existence. Articles and entire books have been written about the phenomenon and what to do about it. It has even spawned a wildly popular comic strip, Dilbert, in which a typical engineer is tormented daily by his boss with inane orders, processes and obstacles to getting any work done.

Unfortunately, Scouting isn’t exempt from the micromanagers. It’s bad enough when a committee chair has the attitude that he or she must direct and manage every committee function, usurping the role of the committee members who are there to get things done. It’s even worse when a Scoutmaster or assistant Scoutmaster “gets in the game” with the boys and tries to run troop meetings and campouts instead of allowing the Scouts to be Scouts.

Committee chairs who insist on being part of every advancement report, every camping reservation and every check deposited are spoiling the will of the committee members whose job is to do just those things. A Scoutmaster who insists on approving and modifying every troop meeting plan, campout itinerary and menu selection leaves the boys feeling second-guessed, that their efforts aren’t good enough. It’s similar to the tale of a micromanager at heart, K. T. Keller, president of Chrysler Motors from 1935 to 1950.  Chrysler’s organization chart at the time was said to resemble a wheel with Keller at the hub, but with no rim to allow the spokes to communicate. Therefore, all communication was funneled through Keller, who imposed his own changes on product design as they passed through without adequate review by the designers. Chrysler’s products, though functional, became more and more unfashionable into the late 1940s as a result.

An article by Heather Huhman in the management website SmartBlog on Leadership earlier this year gives us five tips to avoid being a micromanager. Huhman starts out by citing one method that’s really significant in Scouting, and that’s training. In order to feel confident enough in others that they can do their jobs themselves, they must be trained. This is true both of adults and Scouts. Adults need to have formal BSA training for their positions as well as informal, ongoing training specific to their jobs as, say, advancement coordinator or treasurer. Boys learn much differently than adults, of course, so by striking a good balance between theoretical “classroom”-type education such as the Troop Leadership Training program and informal guidance on the task at hand, our Scouts can not only do their jobs but take ownership and satisfaction in them.

The article continues with other helpful ways to achieve success, including setting clear objectives and outcomes, stepping back and letting the process run while being available to provide feedback, and taking the introspective approach to your way of doing things and catching yourself when you start to get too involved in processes that belong to others.

The less micromanaging we do, the better the experience will be for not only our Scouts but our adults as well. Everyone will have more fun and experience fulfillment and success, whether it’s a Scout cooking a meal or a committee member supporting a fundraiser. Watch yourself and strive to make your involvement less hands-on and more trusting and guiding.

This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.
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