Managing Change At The Wrong Level (Part V)

In this, (almost) the denouement of my little series that grew out of the PMO Symposium presentation I gave this week, I’d like to talk about what happens if change management isn’t managed at the appropriate level.

Going back to the example in yesterday’s post, specifically, the discussion of the different decision levels involved in our technical resource driving from Columbus to Cleveland,  let’s examine what would happen if the decisions were made at different levels – or at the inappropriate levels.

Let’s say that the night before the drive, the account manager sat down with the technical resource and pulled up a satellite overview of the route, then planned each and every lane change for the entire 2.5 hour drive.  The technical resource agrees to follow the plan exactly.

The result?  Most likely the technical resource ends up plowing into another car or a construction site, and never makes it to Cleveland.

The conclusion from that example?  When making decisions at a level too far removed from reality, we suffer from overly rigid planning that cannot be adapted to the needs of the moment.  The second conclusion we can draw is that when decisions are made at that level of detail, we end up spending a lot of time focusing on the detail – to the detriment of the larger picture, i.e. planning the meeting narrative and defining a strategy to work with that potential client.

Now let’s flip that example.  Let’s leave the strategery to the technical resource, who, if you follow the Taylorist approach to organizational management, is at the bottom of the organization….which is perhaps a fairly judgmental term.  Maybe we could say he’s at the more action oriented end of the organizational spectrum.

At this point, we’re tasking the technical resource with maintaining a laser like focus on the technical delivery of projects, while still expecting him to immerse himself in the meta-details of the organization’s operation – and to be able to identify where the gaps will happen.

The inevitable result?  The technical resource focuses on the immediate present and neglects planning for the future.  The organization becomes reactive and not proactive.  That’s no different than pushing portfolio planning to the siloed functional level – where you inevitably end up with localized optimization.

Moral of the (somewhat long winded) story?

Change management is stratified at various levels of the organization as a natural response to requirements to manage complexity….yet, within each strata, the change management mechanism follows the same inherent structure:

  1. Problem Sensing
  2. Supply/Demand Modeling
  3. Decision Making

Next up….we look at the ramifications of this stratification….

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Managing Change At The Wrong Level (Part V)

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