Avoid Micromanagement With 2 Short Checklists


Project managers who micromanage those apprentices or journeymen under them may not be aware that they’re too involved–micromanaging–projects they’ve delegated.

“It’s a situation where the abdication is incomplete, and you know they’re going to yell when the finished project is not right,” says William Hinsley, AECPM, who runs management bootcamps for PSMJ. “What we need to think about is, where’s Goldilocks in this situation? Where’s the middle ground between too much and too little managing?”


Micromanagement is a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself, says Hinsley. It can indicate anxiety felt by either the project manager or the subordinate, he says, and he offers ways to correct it.

He suggests that both sides, the project manager and the subordinate, examine what’s going on to find common ground. Sometimes that means adjusting the way projects are delegated and sometimes the subordinate needs to ask more questions.

As a manager, are you:

  • Saying what you want rather than dictating how to do it?
  • Delegating low discretion, long term items to make the most effective use of your time?
  • Showing compassion for a new person who may be overwhelmed by the project?
  • Providing the appropriate amount of direction for the person you’re delegating to?

As a journeyman/apprentice feeling micromanaged, are you:

  • Aware of your own behavior, including general reliability and completing tasks on time?
  • Communicating with the project manager at predictable intervals regarding the progress of the project?
  • Asking enough questions to clarify issues and fully understand the requirements of the project?

The act of delegating itself is like a project, Hinsley says. “It should be planned beforehand, including selecting the right person, scheduling milestones, and envisioning the end result.”


An example Hinsley uses in his PSMJ management bootcamp sessions is the new project manager who spent three hours creating a detailed set of instructions for a project and template for the way it should be done, then expressed frustration when the people tasked with completing the project never read her instructions or used the template.

“I always say that when you’re delegating you should expect the product to be 30 percent different from what you want and 10 percent wrong, but try to keep it in perspective because that 30 percent difference could be 30 percent better,” Hinsley says.

The issue of micromanagement and poor delegation are universal across all businesses but have particular impact on A/E firms because of the hierarchy of roles and route of professional advancement, Hinsley says. “The progress of apprentice to journeyman to professional hinges on continual improvement and learning.”