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Boring Work Requires The Clearest Instructions

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We’re not big fans of micromanagement. But then again, who is? Well, one writer believes there are some times that it actually makes sense.

In an article in Inc. Magazine, the author explained:

This entails a level of micromanagement that I was taught is a bad thing. Isn’t today’s modern leader supposed to hire brilliant people, give them a little direction, and just let them go to work? Doesn’t micromanagement turn smart people into robots?

Yes, maybe. But here’s my new theory: At the top of every company, there’s at least one person who really cares and really wants the product and the customer experience to be great. … Below that person, there are layers of people, many of whom are equally dedicated and equally talented.

But at some point as you work your way through an organization, you find pockets of people who don’t care that much. For them, it’s a job. They just want to get through the day and don’t find it upsetting that the video switching is slow and the Wi-Fi went down.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d rather never have uncaring people squatting anywhere in my org chart. But realistically I know that sometimes these people are going to find their way into my life. I won’t hire them at my company, but as we expand into conferences and events, between the theaters and caterers and Internet providers we’ll be using, some of the key personnel will be beyond my control.

improving worker productivity with micromanagement

© Flickr user Alex E. Proimos

On the one hand, we can all appreciate the reality that there are varying levels of competence. No amount of yelling, cajoling, or empowering will convince your average cashier to solve an unusual customer service problem. At best you will get the line: “You’ll have to speak to my manager.”

On the other hand, however, this attitude seems disheartening. The author seems to claim that it’s just a matter of supply and demand: every company has “pockets of people who don’t care.” Could it really be the case that all organizations are doomed to some level of mediocrity?

AccelaWork takes an alternate view. We’re opposed to micromanagement but we also recognize that not every aspect of work can be 100% engaging and self-directed. There are unpleasant or uninteresting tasks that simply have to be done. These cases don’t require micromanagement, but they do need clear procedures and documentation. After all, if a particular part of our work is boring, we are more likely to gloss over the details if we don’t have clear instructions to follow.

It’s pretty easy to be zoned in and totally motivated if you’re giving a presentation to a board of 100 high-investing shareholders. If an employee can’t find a way to be engaged by a task like that, then they probably aren’t the sort of employee you want to be keeping around. However, tasks like setting up an automatic email response for vacation, transferring data from one spreadsheet to another, or doing QA tests on a product that is usually spot on aren’t going to be nearly as exciting. While it isn’t ideal, it’s understandable that focus can waver in such a situation. That’s where the clear procedures and documentation come into play.

We love helping organizations and individuals define everyday workflow. There are few things more empowering at work than taking authority and responsibility over a task. We don’t need more micromanagement, but we do need smart, efficient, and accountable self-management. For more information, reach out to our organizational productivity team at AccelaWork. We love to talk productivity and help you reach the lofty goals you have for your company!

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