Recently I spoke with a young founder — he observed a tendency in himself to micro-manage his team. When talking about it, it became clear that this tendency mostly came from his anxiety to make sure stuff gets done. He felt that he needed to stay on top of things all the time — and that let him to be more involved that he should and wanted to be.
Our discussion made me think of Gordon Ramsay’s TV show Hell’s Kitchen: Beside the entertainment value of having Gordon regularly loose his marbles, it offers a fascinating insight into the stressful environment of a professional kitchen. The thing which always stands out to me is the way the different stations work together: An order comes in, is dissected into the different parts (meat, veggies, garnish), the respective stations are informed and they shout back that they a) received the order (acknowledgement) and b) when it will be ready (information). When this is done in a fluid movement the kitchen runs like clockwork. When this line of communication breaks down, it’s time for Gordon to get a nervous breakdown.
“Teams: Acknowledge receiving a task, indicate when it’s done and how others will know it’s done.”
There is some deeper insight into this: Teams should work like the kitchen staff — when you receive a task, acknowledge it, tell the others when it will be done and how they will know it’s done. Establishing this simple routine in a team will immediately lift you out of micro-manage mode (at least for the reasons which made the young founder a micromanager).