Managing Change At The Wrong Level (Part IV)

Let’s stop right now and start looking at a concrete (albeit contrived) example of change management…

All of the top managers of an organization gather together and identify that their sales are too geographically limited.  Perhaps most of their sales are in the Columbus market and this opens the organization up to too much risk – as if the Columbus market, highly dependent on public sector spending dries up, the organization’s livelihood would be in jeopardy.

So they decide that they need to expand into other markets.  To develop this plan, they then invite their sales and product managers to the next round of meetings.  Perhaps at one of these meetings, one of the sales managers identifies Cleveland as a new target market.

The word goes out to all of the account managers…and maybe a new incentive is published.  The account managers are tasked with finding new opportunities in the Cleveland market.  One account manager in particular picks up a phone and sets up a meeting with a prospect in Cleveland.  Since the meeting is technical in nature, he assigns one of his technical resources to participate in the meeting.

Now the technical resource gets a simple directive….get to Cleveland by 8:30 AM on Tuesday to demonstrate this product.  Maybe the account manager will sit down with the technical resource to review a map of the route (which is unlikely in this day and age – especially as they would probably just drive up 71 for a couple of hours.)

So on the appointed day, the technical resource hops in the car and starts driving.  The plan is set, and there shall be no changes.  He needs to get to Cleveland by 8:30 AM.

Needless to say, as he’s driving, he’s making constant corrections: speeding up or slowing down, switching lanes, taking detours due to construction, dodging the occasional escaped exotic animal.

That’s the normal process.  Each layer within the hierarchy makes the decisions and modifications to the plan appropriate to the level on which they operate.  Would it make sense for the account manager to sit down with the technical resource the night before the meeting and identify exactly which lanes to drive in?

No, that would be silly.  The account manager would never be able to effectively plan at that level.  This is the nature of complexity – which many organizations deal with naturally by pushing it down in the organization.

Next up….the implications of mismanaging the level of complexity at which we operate….

Managing Change At The Wrong Level (Part IV)

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