Policy Deployment #2 – Command Goes Down, Control Goes Up

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Last week I posted about setting big goals for policy deployment.   Now that we have decided to “go to the moon” we need to get serious about figuring out exactly how.  Many people think that lean is a bottom up approach to business.  Think of it as being both top down and bottom up.  In the language taught to me by the Marine Corps (here) command should go down and control should go up.  In order to assure that all of our activities support a coherent strategy and that everybody’s efforts are harmonized in support of that strategy command needs to go down the organization  and control should go UP (using the traditional business model that puts the boss at the top — not sure if I like that but we will use it for this discussion.)  Like setting multi-year goals helps create constancy of purpose (Deming’s point #1) across time in and organization a top down strategy helps create the same across the functions of an organization.

Command (vision / goals) should go down, Control (how / means and support needs) should go up.

Command in this case is really those longer range goals that harmonize all this different parts of the organization .  You could call it ‘vision’ maybe.  This is important because if you let the different parts form their own overall vision in isolation from each other then they might do things that don’t work together.  They might end up successful in execution and end up with strategic failure.  Imagine if manufacturing decided that the most important thing was creating a bunch of new capacity when sales and marketing REALLY NEEDED shorter product development and order fulfillment times.  It would have been better for development and manufacturing to cut lead times instead of creating new capacity.  This doesn’t mean that all parts of the organization shouldn’t be focused on doing more with less – that is a decent definition of lean.  Those kinds of activities (reducing waste or muda, muri, mura, lead times, etc.) should happen autonomously throughout the organization.  Policy deployment though, is about assuring that a harmonized vision for the organization gets implemented.

Everything up to now should make perfect sense to the old style managers – “I get to decide, announce, and delegate the goals to people and then come back and hold them accountable when they fail.”  First that is management by abdication not delegation.  More importantly is just dumb and doesn’t work.  To be successful the leaders have to be willing to give up control.  This requires courage and trust on the part of the boss (it is one of the things that Deming meant by leadership in point #7).  It requires that the subordinates have trust and confidence in their leaders.  These are requirements if the process is going to work.

What does it mean to give up control?  The subordinates in this model get to decide how they will fulfill the vision, and what they will need from the boss / organization.  More precisely, differently levels will agree on the hows and what support will be needed.  This is what delegation really means.  The boss has to agree that the hows will fulfill the mission if executed.  She can’t just tell people that it is their plan and that they will be held accountable.  Think of it kind of like a contract that both sides understand, agree, and have terms to fulfill.  This can take some back and forth in a process called “catchball” (this is Deming’s point #2 , win-win cooperation or Toyota’s respect for people if you don’t like Deming and it is for another post).  This is hard for some people.  For years some organizations have taught that bosses need to be “tough” and decide and announce the plans.   Col. Mike Wyly of the Marines concedes in his essay Thinking Like Marines that this is necessary but unnatural for all bosses:

As a commander in Vietnam I wanted to unleash my marines on the enemy, not control them. But every marine commander, we find, doesn’t see it that way. Desire for control can be insidious.

As you work on setting up goals and plans for next year understand that the different parts of the organization have to subordinate their individual and collective wills to the strategic needs of the business, but that the organization needs to listen to the people as to how to meet the big vision and what kinds of support they will need.  People want to do good things. By letting them play a roll in creating the plan you will let them succeed in bigger and better ways than they have in the past (Deming’s point #12).  We’ll talk about how to break that big vision down into smaller parts – like how much to do this year – in a future post.

Note – Col. Mike Wyly traded in the ways of a warrior to become Founder and Executive Director of the Bossov Ballet in Pittsfield, Maine.

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