Are you managing the wrong thing?

Far too often we worry about managing a product or a service. Hence the designation Product Manager, Project Manager, or Customer Service Manager. We’re trying to manage the quality of the product or service we provide.

Managing the product is splitting up and dolling out work–micromanagement–instead of letting people do that. It’s translating output to input, and only providing knowledge of inputs to workers. Then, hawking over outputs, finding what doesn’t match up, and giving new marching orders to blindly correct for the gap between input and output. Never allowing people to know what is ultimately to be accomplished.

And it manifests itself in a lack of trust, enthusiasm, challenging work and fulfillment.

For example, if a customer wanted a cup of tea, a manager would send one worker to get cold water, ask another to heat the water up, ask another to get a tea bag, and then the manager would put the ingredients together himself. Cursing if anything is missing and barking orders to go get it, like a pack of sugar.

What’s often missing is the management of the people creating the product or providing the service. Or, doing both.

For example, ask someone to make a cup of green tea for the customer.

As a result, one is almost always at odds with ensuring quality simply because the product that they try to manage, is the result of the work of people. The quality of the product is the effect, the quality of the people is the cause.

If you manage people well, the product will be a reflection of that and you won’t have to manage the product. You manage the product by managing the people who then create quality products.