So…your department or team has a big event coming up. It will be very visible to the organization, and possibly even to the public. You have assigned a person to be the lead organizer for the event, and she keeps saying everything is going fine. But, as the person whose head will roll if it fails, how do you supervise the project without a) taking primary responsibility for the event; b) micromanaging the event; and c) letting it fail.
I have seen some managers/leaders so afraid of micro-m
anaging or so laid back that they back off from projects and don’t even ask for details or information about how the planning process is going. This can work if you can live with failure of the project or event. But if it is something that is mission-critical, then you need to make sure it goes well. If you don’t then you really aren’t doing your job.
The first thing you need to do is make sure your staff person understands how important this project or event is. Have a planning kick-off at the outset. That can include higher-ups, other stakeholders—whoever else is influential or cares deeply about the outcome. You can brainstorm what the event might look like and talk about some of the limitations that exist. By doing this, your staff person will gain some ideas about the expectations of others.
Meet with your person and ask her to outline how she wants to structure the planning process—who she will involve on her planning team, how often they will meet, what parameters she sees, concerns she has about possible bumps or chasms in the road. Have her show you her preliminary budget. Also have her talk about how she envisions the event. Also discuss a planning timeline with her—what are her deadlines for major milestones?
Coach her through any rough patches you see in her pre-planning process. Point out any bumps in the road you can see that she hasn’t.
Your next step is to check in with her regularly to make sure everything is on track. Ask to see her budget for the project as it comes together. Ask how the planning meetings are going, and help her problem solve as needed You can even ask her about the details of the event if you want reassurance that they are all being taken care of. Ask if the people you need to have there have been invited. Ask if there is anything you can do to help. You can even invite yourself to a planning meeting—just don’t talk much and do a lot of listening and supporting of the process.
You move over into micromanagement if you second-guess her ideas, make her change some of the details, or literally override decisions that have already been made.
Once the planning is done, support your staff by shining in the role you have been given, and also by making sure you thank the key players publicly. Then celebrate with the entire team for a job well done. You can all feel good in the success of the project as well as the department. Congratulations!