How to Use Madlibs to Streamline Micromanagement

Fill in the blanks to bring micromanagement up to macro speed.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #423

Today’s topic is learning to micromanage your team, using only a few minutes each day. (Perfect for micromanaging when you’re traveling!)madlibs to streamline micromanagement

Bernice, the owner of the Green Growing Things plant shop, has declared that the Goddess wants her to travel to Sedona to learn psychic energy-based cactus growing techniques from an ancient sect of energy healers. Unfortunately, her employees—despite being a political mastermind, an android wunderkind, and her IT-geek fiance—can’t seem to run the shop right without her. She loves them dearly, but let’s face it: she wants to spend her time focusing on her chakras, not hand holding her crew back home. They often need micromanagement, but that takes so much time. Luckily, she can get the benefits of micromanagement without the slow-down by using rapid-fire Madlib meetings.

Change Up Your Check-ins

Remember Madlibs? Madlibs is a game where you play fill-in-the-blank. You have a sentence like “The (profession)___ went to the store.” You ask your friends to yell out a profession. They say, “baker.” You plug it in an read the resulting sentence, “The baker went to the store.” Hilarious!!!

You can use Madlibs for much more serious endeavors. Use Madlibs to do daily micromanagement check-ins. To get started, set up daily 5-minute team meetings at the start of each day. Work with your team members to design a Madlib for each that relates to the work they should be doing on a daily basis.

Melvin, for example, might start his with a status update on the Green Growing Things harvest. “Yesterday I harvested (blank) rows of (blank), and fed the (blank).” The Madlib might also touch on goals for today. So he might add “today I intend to harvest (blank) rows of (blank).” This Madlib neatly gives Melvin a way to measure harvesting progress on a daily basis. Europa, whose current project is taking inventory of all the herbs and spices, might say “Yesterday, I continued the inventory up through (name of a spice).” 

In your daily meeting, go around the circle and have each person fill in the blanks on their Madlibs. Call each employee’s name and have them share their filled in Madlib. Melvin would say, “Yesterday I harvested 3 rows of petunias and fed the Albanian Paisley Orchid hybrids. Today I intend to harvest 6 rows of carnations.” The structure of the Madlib puts his attention directly on the measure of what he should be doing.

Add Requests for Help

The Madlib can do more than just put attention on measurements. Add the phrase “Today I need help on (blank)” to the end of each person’s sentence. Now they have a built-in way to ask the rest of the team for help. Quickly. Europa might say “Yesterday, I continued inventory up through parsley. Today I need help with inventorying the ragweek because I’m aller… I’m aller… I’m ALLERGIC! Achoo!

Once everyone has given their micro-status, give everyone a chance to respond to any requests for help that came up during the check-in. Notice that it’s taken about 15 seconds per person to check in with everyone. Bask in the wonderfulness of Madlibs!

Micromanagement now becomes as simple as designing Madlibs that get each team member to focus on the micro-details they should be paying attention to.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.