“The Pinedale Shopping Mall Has Just Been Bombed By Live Turkeys!” Or, How To Rebuild Trust With Stakeholders In Product Management
In memory of Howard Hesseman (aka, Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati), we’re re-presenting this updated version of a classic Product Management Meets Pop Culture post.
< SPOILER WARNING >
Key plot points from this 30-year-old sitcom will be revealed as we look at the root causes of micromanagement and how Product Managers can navigate our way out those situations — usually before turkeys start crashing to the ground like bags of wet cement.
< / SPOILER WARNING >
At the start of this episode, radio station WKRP has undergone a format change — and bumbling station manager Arthur Carlson feels left out of the loop.
Carlson brings his concerns to Andy, the new programming director, and the well-meaning Andy inadvertently triggers a bout of micromanagment mania in The Big Guy.
Soon, the entire radio station’s in turmoil, upset with Carlson’s new hands-on behavior.
Things take a weird turn when Carlson decides to stage his own Thanksgiving Day promotion, and enlists sales manager Herb Tarlek to gather 20 live turkeys and news reporter Les Nessman to prepare for a live broadcast. The mysterious Carlson refuses to provide any further details.
On Thanksgiving Day, Les reports live from the Pinedale Shopping Mall as dark objects start to fall from the WKRP helicopter hovering above…
“No parachutes yet. Can’t be skydivers. I can’t tell just yet what they are, but–Oh my God! They’re turkeys! Johnny, can you get this? Oh, they’re plunging to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! Oh, the humanity! The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! Not since the Hindenburg tragedy has there been anything like this!”– Les Nessman
Back at the station, DJ Dr. Johnny Fever reports that the Pinedale Shopping Mall has just been bombed by live turkeys.
Andy and the others field angry calls from city hall…
… while Carlson and Herb stumble back into the office…
… and Les recounts how the surviving turkeys mounted a counterattack.
The stunned Carlson can only mutter, “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”
Truly, one of the all-time best sitcom episodes. No, really; it’s #23.
“It’s Time To Tighten Things Up Around Here”
As illustrated by ol’ Carlson, managers often start micromanaging when they feel threatened, left out, or sense that projects are taking too long and aren’t meeting certain standards.
Sometimes, that leads to poor morale and turkeys crashing through the windshields of parked cars. Sometimes, that leads to a team embracing a more acceptable form of micromanagement called agile development.
Today, we’ll look at micromanagement from the perspective of a product manager being micromanaged by his supervisor.
A Product Manager’s Anti-Micromanagement Action Plan
Good news! As a product manager, you likely already have the tools and skills to deal with micromanagement — they just need to be marshaled in tighter formation, more consistently.
First, be sure to review your own performance. Have you given your supervisors reason to distrust you? If so, that needs to be addressed immediately. Because, frankly, without trust, nothing else matters. For help with that, see “Trust – the key to success” by Michael Ray Hopkin.
Assuming you have some record of accomplishment and a trust relationship in place…
Don’t Enable The Micromanager
Micromanagers want every decision run through them. Don’t. Take initiative. Make decisions. Just remember to start small, work your way up, and communicate the results. Gently let your supervisor know when their help is needed, and when it’s not.
Keep The Boss Up To Speed
Supervisors with micromanagement tendencies always, always, always want to know what’s happening. So tell them about the core issues. Keep them in the loop by providing brief, regular status reports on key areas of concern. Show progress, and results — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Do Your Homework – And Theirs
When you’re at a point where you need your manager to make a decision, don’t throw the problem over the wall and wait for a response. Lay out options with supporting facts, analysis, and probable outcomes. Help the boss look smart, and be smarter.
But Wait. Shouldn’t I Just Quit?
Sure, if you’re being micromanaged to death, you could always quit and find a new job. In the long term, that might be the right decision if the situation is so dire. But is the situation truly so grim? If not, quitting too soon may actually rob you of a good opportunity for growth.
The choice, as always, is yours.
Just watch out for falling turkeys.