Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Quote of the day (repost): why micromanagement is bad

From Lt. Gen. Gus Pagonis' book:
I never tell a subordinate how to carry out a specific goal. Dictating terms to a subordinate undermines innovation, decreases the subordinate’s willingness to take responsibility for his or her actions, increases the potential for suboptimization of resources, and increases the chances that the command will be dysfunctional if circumstances change dramatically. Our first month in the theater only underscored my sense that our team would have to be incredibly elastic.
I think about this quote a lot. (I first posted it in 2011.)


  1. Would that be at the core of the difference between leadership and management?

  2. I think this depends a lot on your position in the organization. A Lt. General commands thousands of troops, so of course he is not micromanaging what each does, or even how his handful of subordinate Major Generals accomplish their goals. However, if you are a front line Captain or Sergeant, you can bet you are giving people direct orders to accomplish specific tasks in specific ways.

    The same is true in the lab. Upper management directives are broad. Front-line managers or senior researchers are emailing people runsheets and specific experiments to run.

  3. Chad - you're only partially correct. The span of control of any officer, NCO or team leader is optimally no more than 5-7 people. Any more than that, and the effectiveness drops off rapidly. As a Naval Lieutenant (O-3) and a division officer, my span was 4: A division Chief Petty Officer and 3 group leaders. When I became a Reactor Department Principal Assistant, my span of control went to 2 (A JO and a Chief).