Bottom-up Mandate for Change

This entry is part 7 of 18 in the series Interview Tom Marine Gets Right Upfront


MM: Having repeated the process elsewhere with my clients, I am sure that your Hubert colleagues were aghast about how the big mess on their hands. That was the first thing. Right?

TM: Yes. They couldn’t believe it.

MM: That then gave rise to a collective rocket of desire to make it better—whatever that was going to be. And supporting that desire, you had this visual, persistent object on the wall demonstrating in black-and-white or full-color factual details of the big mess. Argument over. We’ve got mess. And that led to more meaningful, cogent, and effective conversations with all the stakeholders about how to facilitate the change.

TM: Correct.

MM: I love it. In essence your physical wall-mounted map began to future-proof a change without actually having to make the change. It got everyone thinking about how to make a holistic change instead of a tactical change to one piece that might result in unintended consequences elsewhere in the business or, worse, among customers.

TM: Correct. Now, we took some interim steps. First, when we saw all the errors of in the current process, we took action on those things that did not require automation or a new system. We just said, “Okay. We’ve identified it. Let’s change these.”

MM: So you identified where in the process a change should optimally occur. For example, who in the process would now be accountable for data entry, and the quality assurance for what got entered.

TM: Yes.

Drucker’s Theory of Knowledge Work Productivity

MM: As a general principle, this validate Peter Drucker’s notion of Knowledge Worker Productivity. He defined it as, “How quickly can I ask for information from another person?” And/or, “How quickly can I provide information to another person,” with a specified time, place and format?

So, your work demonstrates another principle of innovation leadership: you optimize the productivity of individuals in the workflow by—first of all—identifying my upstream (value chain) providers of information, and my downstream recipients of good, high-quality information for which I am responsible.

TM: Yes.

MM: So, as you begin to understand who contributes what, this produced many conversations or arguments about specific deliverables, hand-offs, and who is responsible for what—and what continues to drives the Internet revolution: transaction costs or the costs of communicating or delivering a unit of work to your downstream “customers”.

TM: One of our biggest discoveries was the level distrust. That was probably the largest obstacle we had. For so long, people had dealt with other peoples’ mistakes that they didn’t trust the other people to get things done right upfront.

Going back to the accountability issue, when the process was optimized, it was drilled into the people that—”If this is your only chance to do this, then you have to do it right. Because nobody’s going to be checking your work any longer.”

That’s where we came into some obstacles. Because people would say, “No. I have to see that again. I don’t trust that these people are going to do their jobs correctly.”


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