Unexpected ways we lose overview.

Story category: Organization

Story tags: control loop, OODA loop, decision making

Control loops are created to put people in control. Why does it happen, that managers who are in control of a dedicated loop, still lose control?


What makes a control loop a powerful tool is that it secures the ingredient needed to create mechanisms that provide control. This unfortunately does not guarantee control; just as the mechanisms in a car, like the steering wheel and other controls, do not guarantee that a driver will never lose control of the car. The ingredients for control are thus essential but not sufficient.


In a previous story we have discussed how the OODA loop helps a manager make use of a control loop through observing information and feedback flows, giving meaning to that information and feedback, making decisions, and having the loop act upon those decisions. 


A serious disruptor of a control loop is MICROMANAGEMENT. Micromanagement has a negative effect on being able to able to maintain an “elevated” and “detached” position; crucial for maintaining overview. When micromanaging, you must give up your elevated position and jump into the weeds (details), this means that your broad field of view is lost. When jumping in and micromanaging, you also give up being detached as you are engaged with “in detail” directing people, actions, thoughts, processes, and outcomes; most of the time with increasing emotion, resistance, and friction as people do not like being imposed upon. Micromanagement thus creates a reenforcing spiral that increases the need for micromanagement.


The incentive for managers to turn into micromanagers is often rooted in either “EGO” (I know better/my way is the best) or “LACK OF TRUST” (you cannot do it), sometimes both.


The remedy for this issue is “decentralized command”. This means that there is a Leader-Leader model implemented where the control loop leader sets the mission, targets, available resources, time frame, limitations, end state, etc., and the people active within the loop plan, execute, and problem-solve within that space. In this way the manager can keep an elevated and detached position, while making sure that the team (as a whole) is in control and has actual ownership. 


The interesting thing here is that micromanagement is applied to increase control, but in fact reduces the ability of a leader to stay in control by:


- Giving up their elevated position and jumping into the weeds.


- Engage with distrust and ego as driving factors (emotion is involved).


- Take away ownership by dictating and imposing the way.


- Increase the need to micromanage 1) as people who do not have ownership require a higher degree of pressure to get things done than people who have ownership over their world, and 2) people do not develop any skill in the terrain where the micromanager always jumps in.


Conclusion we got out of this interesting journey is that ego is the enemy, trust is essential, and decentralized command (when developed in the right way) is just as critical for control as the classic ingredients that comprise the standard control loop; perhaps it’s time to update the standard loop!

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