We are more or less familiar with the traditional model of managing people. There is usually a team or a few loosely coupled people with a manager assigned to them. The manager knows what work, in what order and when it should be finished. They plan and schedule specific activities, let the people know about their duties, possibly help with its execution, monitor the progress and report to their supervisors. Their work can be formally described as planning, organizing, coordinating, commanding and controlling.
The management duties described above can be pushed to the extreme in many directions. One of them is micro management – a situation where a manager excessively controls the work of their subordinates. Such behaviour has several negative results on subordinates:
- lack of trust in a manager,
- inability to take any decisions,
- anti-social behaviour.
The above consequences are caused by the nature of human beings. We quite easily adjust to the current situation. If a manager fully controls our work and our exact steps, we do not feel responsible for them anymore. Moreover, we also lose motivation and turn off our creativity as we do not feel as though it is expected from us any longer. On the other hand, when we know that we are loosely controlled and we are able to choose how we achieve results our attitude changes dramatically. We feel responsible for our tasks, we search for new ways of dealing with problems, we take care about delivering the results. We simply feel motivated to achieve what is expected from us. This is of course some generalisation and our final behaviour also depends on many other factors. Nevertheless, knowing that the job relies on us motivates us a lot.
Goal oriented management is based on the above trait of human nature. It involves setting clear, specific and transparent goals where it is known that they can be achieved. Several accompanying automatically measured metrics are also usually set up. The next steps are to communicate goals to the people who will achieve them. However, do not think that it is only about letting them know what metrics they should meet. It is much much more, as it includes:
- making sure they fully understand their goals and the motivation behind them,
- not being forced and pressured but sincere commitment to achieve goals,
- convincing them that the work they will do provides real value to users, the company or other parties,
- and as a result of all of the above making them believing in the work they will perform.
It is not an easy task to handle a project this way. However, when done properly, it is one of the most effective paths for sure.
Leaders and managers using goal oriented management shouldn’t forget that the above activities are just the beginning. While providing freedom for their subordinates is very important, it doesn’t mean that they should do whatever they want. They should be provided with all the required for goals completion information. Moreover, supervisors should help them as much as possible during their everyday work. While it is very important to avoid micromanaging it is quite easy to fall into the opposite pitfall – leaving a team with goals without providing means and support for completing them. Depending on the project you will have to find proper balance.
It is a good time to mention the 5 levels of followership which I saw some time ago:
- waiting to be told what to do – hardly an acceptable state, especially in dynamic environments. It is quite easy to push subordinates to the next level,
- asking to be told what to do – better than the first, but still rather unacceptable. Pushing an employee to the next level is a little bit harder but still shouldn’t require a lot of effort in most cases,
- seeking approval for a recommendation of what to do – the first pretty much acceptable level for people managed by a goal oriented approach. Getting to the next level usually requires some experience and confidence in a specific work area,
- seeking approval for an action undertaken – pushing the previous level further,
- undertaking action and reporting in a routine way – the desired level for people managed by a goal oriented approach. Provides the best productivity for both the leader/manager and the subordinate and it highly motivates.
Progressing employees through levels is not an easy task. You cannot simply push someone through many levels at the same time. It is usually required to slowly move from one level to the next. Nevertheless, it is worth taking the time to do it. At the end, you will not only increase productivity and the overall effect but also make people happier and make the workplace a better space.
Many management frameworks and ways of working with software heavily depend on a goal oriented approach. It includes lean methodologies, agile, devops. They are based on engagement, commitment and self organization. There is no place for micromanaging (even the word has negative connotations). The people need a purpose and means to achieve it. Dig into the topic further and switch your mindset!