Dangers of micro-managing projects


By Abid Mustafa


It is common for the term ‘micromanagement’ to be associated with managers aggressively intervening to conduct actions on behalf of their subordinates. The subordinates notice a loss of control and autonomy over their ability to execute actions. The experience can be debilitating for many and some may even feel demoralised, vulnerable and bullied.

However, there is another dimension to micromanagement, which is rarely discussed or acknowledged. This is when the offending project manager, micromanages the idea of subordinates, or in the worst case scenario dominates their ability to think and produce concepts.

Instead of providing guidelines and etching out boundaries of concepts, the project manager controls the entire process of building the concept from inception to completion. Under the pretext of challenging and brainstorming the idea, the project manager embarks on a painstaking process to supplant ideas into the minds of subordinates. No matter how weak or skewed the ideas may seem, they are gradually implanted into the minds of the subordinates until their minds are intellectually colonised.

Any resistance from the subordinates, no matter how justified it is, is met with ridicule and endless debates that quickly digress into accusations about the subordinates’ inability to comprehend the wider picture, or understand what executives really want. If by chance, flaws in the idea are pointed out by employees of higher rank, the idea is immediately revised, but the mistakes are never admitted before the project team.

Those subordinates, who possess a superior understanding about the idea under discussion, rapidly learn that efforts to persuade are futile and they eventually capitulate. Others, who refuse to be browbeaten into submission, are hounded until they resist no more, or they are isolated.


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About the Author

Abid Mustafa


Abid Mustafa is a seasoned professional with 18 years’ experience in the IT and Telecommunications industry, specializing in enhancing corporate performance through the establishment and operation of executive PMOs and delivering tangible benefits through the management of complex transformation programs and projects. Currently, he is working as a director of corporate programs for a leading telecoms operator in the MENA region.  Mr. Mustafa is currently based in Dubai and can be contacted at [email protected].