From the Ask Tom mailbag –
I recently attended one of your Time Span workshops and want to know how hierarchy promotes cooperation?
The short answer is accountability. Inherent in the structure of hierarchy is accountability. Unfortunately, most managers misunderstand the purpose for hierarchy and where accountability is appropriately placed.
Most managers believe that hierarchy is a reporting structure. Even our language misguides us. “Who is the new guy going to report to?” This is not the central question.
The definition of a manager is, that person held accountable for the output of other people. The question is not “who should the new guy report to?” The central question is, which manager can be held accountable for the new guy’s output?”
When managers begin to understand accountability, the whole game changes. Hierarchy provides us with a visual representation, of which manager is accountable for the output of the team.
When managers begin to understand that they are accountable for the output of their team, attitudes change and behavior changes. Behaviors change from controlling and directing to supporting and coaching. Every employee is entitled to have a competent manager with the time span capability to bring value to their problem solving and decision making.
The purpose of hierarchy is to create that value stream, where managers, one stratum above (in capability) bring value to the problem solving and decision making of their team members. For ultimately, it is the manager who is accountable for their output.