In other words, it's the minimum amount of the drug a person needs to take in order to achieve the desired result.

There is also a maximum tolerated dose (MTD). This is defined as the highest possible dose before the drug becomes toxic to the patient. In other words, the point at which the drug begins to do harm rather than do good.

A few years ago, I realised that management had drifted way beyond its maximum tolerated dose. Our efforts to help have in fact started to hinder. We're stopping people thinking for themselves, we're encouraging the wrong behaviours, and the costs in time and money far outweigh the benefits. This led me to thinking: what is the minimum effective dose for management? What is the minimum amount of management activity I could perform in order to get the results I need?

The result was a set of principles that make up what I call Minimum Effective Management.

Be like a pilot

Too many of the management activities we depend on have an intolerable high failure rate. With Minimum Effective Management, managers act more like commercial pilots. They don't push themselves to the limit of their ability on the basis this will sometimes get a better result. They depend on simple and effective management activities that nearly always work. This means ditching things like performance reviews that have a truly appalling success rate. Very simply, when you use this approach, you look at everything you're doing as a manager, and if you can't be sure that it's almost always beneficial to everyone on your team, you don't do it anymore.

Build it for the best

The overwhelming amount of management activity is predicated on the idea that the worst outcomes will occur unless there is manager intervention. Most management is geared towards preventing those worst outcomes, not maximising the chances of the best outcomes. It's an approach built around the worst people, limiting everyone to move as slowly as the slowest member of the team.

Minimum Effective Management assumes the opposite. It assumes that each employee can and will do a great job if left alone, but it provides mechanisms to catch anyone who is struggling so they can be supported. It's a system designed to get the best out of people. not prevent the worst. It tells everyone to do their best and provides zero management involvement by default, then catches the people who can't deliver what's needed, and provides help only to those people.

Keep checking the pot

A huge part of the management role is just moving information around. We find out what needs to be achieved and we send that information down the org chart, then we find out what's being done to achieve it and we send it back up the org chart. We're conduits for information. But the role was created before the internet existed, and the internet is a tool that should really have changed the role entirely. By now, the role of manager should be a technology and human hybrid. A lot of what the human does today, the technology should really be doing.

Minimum Effective Management leans heavily on technology to automate or decentralise anything that doesn't need to be done by a person anymore, and continually evaluates changes in the world that might mean old practises need to change.

Real autonomy

Traditional management takes far too much decision making authority away from people, and by stripping away this autonomy, we also strip away their sense of responsibility.

With traditional management, a manager can just tell an employee what to do. If the employee wants to do something else, they'd need to convince the manager to let them. Minimum Effective Management inverts that. If the manager wants an employee to do something, they have to convince them. This means the employee retains full responsibility for their choices.

This doesn't mean the managers aren't involved. All the conversations managers have with their staff still happen if they want them to. But our employees understand that the decisions they make about how they work and what they work on would be theirs alone. If the manager wants them to do something a certain way, but can't convince them, the employee can make their own choice.

Group Recognition

Egomaniacs that we are, when we hear that our staff want more recognition, we tend to assume that means from us. It usually doesn't. The real recognition people want is from their peers. They want the people they work with to see that they're good at what they do. Having a single manager be responsible for reviewing staff and providing feedback is completely out of date. Instead, MEM takes advantage of technology to allow people to provide and receive feedback from the people they work with, taking this activity entirely out of the managers hands.

Open Information

Managers often hoard information or think that their staff need protecting from certain things. MEM doesn't do this. If the manager knows something, the staff will know it too. Only when people are aware of the problems a business faces can they actually help solve them. There is no protecting, coddling or spinning in Minimum Effective Management. People are told the real situation, good or bad.

Following these principles has led to me completely changing the way I manage people. I have stopped doing a huge number of previously time consuming activities such as annual pay reviews, performance reviews, and one-on-ones. I've cancelled all recurring meetings. And everything is working much better. Staff are more engaged, progress is faster, and I'm doing much less work.

Minimum Effective Management is the easy way to do a hard job.

Matt Casey is a management expert, the co-founder of and author of The Management Delusion: What If We're Doing it All Wrong out now