When Are We Managing Too Much?

Vesa Purho
Research Analyst, Information Design, Nokia

Managing is a good thing. Good management ensures that company and individual goals are met in a motivating working environment. However, sometimes management can go too far and reduce motivation and innovation. Sometimes the reason can be found from trying to have all work done in projects; sometimes it is due to a misunderstanding of the budget. According to management books and experts, the budget is only a numerical representation of an action plan, and it should not prevent sensible work. So, if the environment changes during a budgeting period, the budget, and the action plans for that matter, should be adjusted accordingly.

The following signs can tell you that perhaps you are managing or being managed too much:

  • All work must be done in projects. Even continuous support (help desk activities, and so on) and other process-like activities that do not have a beginning or an end in time nor any one-time goal (so you don’t know when you are done) are formulated into projects. This kind of work is better managed by reserving a percentage of people’s time for the work on a continuous basis.
  • A good idea for improving processes or content is not investigated further because no money or resources have been reserved for it in the budget. Even in an economic downturn, perhaps especially then, innovation should be supported, and you should have the possibility to invest money and resources on improvement activities. Spend a dollar now to save five later.
  • Form takes over content. People are spending a lot of time writing the same plans and budgets using different templates for different managers just because the managers happen to like different templates. Or even worse, the same manager keeps changing the templates. In budgets and action plans, the content should be the main issue, and if the plans and budgets are clear enough for the managers to get the information they need, even if they are a bit different, they should be good enough.
  • You are invoicing internally sums that are less than the cost of handling the internal invoices. Even in tough economic situations, you should be able to see the big picture and not invoice internally, for example, a $3 bus ticket that you have to invoice because you had not anticipated the associated project at the beginning of your budgeting period. Handling internal invoices creates cost. Because the main focus should be on the company’s bottom line, these kinds of activities should be avoided.

So, manage projects closely and keep track of costs, but remember to support innovation and avoid bureaucracy that leads to higher corporate costs.

If you have stories of being managed (or managing) to death that you can share, send them to me. I will make a summary of them in some future newsletter. I will hide the identity of the people and companies involved.


This article is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion or practice of Nokia.

 

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