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Micromanagement: Agile Team’s Worst Nightmare

Jul 04, 2018

If I had to name the worst management style universally hated by all, I would know exactly what to say: micromanagement. Bad enough when targeted to individuals, micromanagement is especially damaging in Agile environment.

Continue reading to learn why micromanagers micromanage and how to help them snap out of it.

Micromanagement is annoying. It frustrates, disempowers, destroys motivation and leads to learned helplessness. Micromanaging team members negates the entire idea of a self-organized team that establishes its own pace and strives for efficient collaboration, technical excellency and high quality.

Years ago my manager had resigned and another was going to replace him. The new boss was transitioning from a different role in the organization. The team was anxious to know what he was like, so we asked people who had worked for him. What got back through the grapevine was just one word, but it sounded like a cannon blast:


When the guy finally on-boarded, he confirmed our worst fears. He was always stressed out. He sent emails and then called across the open space – did you get my email? Every spreadsheet and presentation had to be drafted weeks in advance and sent for his approval, and then reviewed several times until they were perfect (at the end they were never perfect). He read every document and corrected sentences and punctuation. He questioned every estimate, the way developers coded and testers tested, how tasks were assigned and how long they took to complete. He told us how to write emails and what to say in meetings. He unleashed mayhem and spread fatigue and depression.

Was he malicious in his anxiety and mistrust? No, absolutely not. He was a hard working person of impeccable integrity and work ethics. He was nice and friendly, always happy to help, perhaps a little too soft to handle the pressure. He would have been hurt and surprised if we told him what we really thought about his management style.

Unfortunately, this is the biggest paradox of the micromanagement: the managers who do it never realize they do it. They are convinced they are good managers – hard working, detail oriented, hands on, helping and caring.

Micromanagers never realize they are micromanagers. They would never believe if somebody else told them.

That’s why you never confront micromanagers. They won’t believe you. Their denial goes deep and a mere suggestion of them being far from perfect will be met with indignation and in some cases anger.

The only way to deal with micromanagers (apart from quitting) is to understand their motivation and break the pattern by establishing trust, reducing their anxiety and redirecting their energy on something productive.

And this is the biggest gift you can give your manager – teach her how to grow, navigate corporate world, nurture the team and build for the future.

Teach your micromanager to grow, navigate corporate world, nurture the team and build for the future.

If your organization has an Agile coach, his time with the manager will be time well spent. The truth is, during Agile transformation managers need more support, education and training than teams. They need to learn how to let go, delegate and trust. None of which is easy, so be patient.

And finally, if you are a manager reading this post, think about your management style and be honest with yourself. Does anything here apply to you? What would your team say about you? Do you feel like you are smarter than everybody else, can get work done faster and better than your staff, have to check and double check, otherwise things will never be finished on time? Hmm, in this case I have a name for you…



Katy Sherman, Director of Software Engineering, Premier Inc.

This article is reproduced from GAVS’ enGAge magazine, July 2018 edition.