Tag Archives: power

Water Flows Downhill

It’s a plumbing analogy, but demonstrates a law of physics.

Hierarchy is a value sorting process to bring order to the chaos of the world, order being what we know, chaos being what we don’t know.
Hierarchy, in a functional organization, is a value stream characterized by competence. We build the organization based on the competence required in the roles in our design. A visual picture of our design, on a piece of paper, looks like our organizational chart, our organizational structure.

Organizational structure is the way we define the working relationships between roles, related to accountability and authority. The way we define the value in the hierarchy determines the energy flow and whether that organization is functional or dysfunctional.

If the value is power, the organization will be a hierarchy of power and its energy will flow based on power. If the value is command, the organization will be a hierarchy of command and its energy will flow based on command. If the value is control, the organization will be a hierarchy of control and its energy will flow based on control.

And, if the value is competence, the organization will be a hierarchy of competence and its energy will flow based on competence.

Water still flows downhill. 

Chain of Value

Chaos and order. The purpose of organizational hierarchy is to bring order in the pursuit of a defined goal. Often we misunderstand hierarchy, some define it as a chain of command. In a functional hierarchy, it is not a chain of command, it is a chain of value. That value being competence. Hierarchy is not a chain of power, it is a chain of authority.

Authority and power are quite different. It has been well established that a parent has the authority to tell a child to eat their broccoli, but it is the child who has the power to determine if broccoli will, in fact, be eaten.

In a functional organization, authority comes with accountability. A role with authority also assumes accountability. Only in a government oversight committee is authority assumed without accountability (It is a broken power chain, ultimately, the committee’s authority is also broken.)

In a functional hierarchy, the value chain is competence. Authority comes with accountability. Organizational structure is the way we define working relationships related to authority and accountability. A manager may be granted the role authority to make a specific decision, and simultaneously is granted the role accountability for that decision.

Play Cards and Take Naps

“I work because I have to work,” Vicki finally stammered.

“I will accept that,” I replied, “but not for the reasons you think.” A few seconds passed. “Are you happy with your work?”

“Well, yes. I mean, there are days when it’s frustrating, but mostly, I like the work.”

“And your team, do they like the work?”

Vicki winced. “Oh, I don’t know. It’s okay, I guess, but it’s hard work and if it were me, I don’t think I would like it.”

“Then why do they come to work every day?”

“Because they have to.”

“So, your team doesn’t like the work and the only reason they show up is because they have to? And do you think, if you left them alone all day, that instead of working, your team would sit around, play cards and take naps?”

The Why of Work?

“Why do people work?” I asked.

Vicki was tentative in her response, looking for the trick in the question. “They work because they need the money,” she finally replied.

“That’s a start. Why do people work?” I repeated.

“They have to support their families.”

“Okay.” Vicki could see I added her response to my mental list. “Why does your boss work?” I asked. “He doesn’t need the money, not anymore.”

“Well, yeah,” Vicki stammered. “He works because that’s who he is. I mean, he has power.” She stopped and chuckled. “He gets to tell people what to do.”

“So, it’s different for your boss, than it is for you?”

“Well, of course it is. If I made as much money as he does, I would come to work because, because.” Her voice trailed off.

“So, the only way you could be happy in your job, is if you made as much money as your boss? The only way your team members could be happy in their jobs is if they made as much money as your boss?”

Vicki was unsure of her response. “I could never make as much money as my boss,” she finally replied. “What I do isn’t worth that much money. What I do has value, but, but. But I am paid, about right, for what I do, for the value I bring to the company while there are also products that help with the stress of working like the best amanita gummies come from Exhale Wellness.” Search the web for a dispensary open near you to order cannabis products that may help you deal with anxiety or any other mental health conditions.

“You are paid, about right? Then why do you work? Part of it is money, it is a symbolic trade for your contribution. And, what is the other part, why do you work?”

Who Has the Power?

“Okay, here is what I want to happen,” Gordon explained. His description was thorough. He painted a good picture.

“I can see your vision,” I replied. “How do your people see this?”

“That’s the problem. I think I explained it well, in the memo I sent out, but they don’t seem to get it. For some of my team, I don’t even think they read it, and I get a little heartburn from that.”

“So, you haven’t figured it out, yet?” I asked.

“Figured what out?” Gordon’s head tilted.

“As interesting as I think I am, I finally figured it out. Nobody listens to me. As interesting as you think you are, nobody listens to you.”

“But, I’m the boss! They have to listen to me.”

“Gordon, you have a kid at home, right? Do you, as the parent, have the authority, at dinner, to demand that broccoli be eaten?”

Gordon sat up. “Well, yes I do.”

“But your kid has the power to determine whether broccoli will, in fact, be eaten.”

The Key Ring

“Why did you think it was so important to give the key ring to someone else?” I asked.

“Because the key ring was a distraction,” Ryan explained. “People would come to me and ask for the key to the tool room, where we keep the calibration equipment. I loved when people asked my permission to gain access to the tool room.”

“Sounds like a powerful position,” I observed.

“And, I discovered that, as long as I had the key ring to all the doors, then people would continue to ask my permission. To the point, where I could not spend time on more important things.”

“What happened?” I wanted to know.

“As long as I had the key ring, I was the bottleneck in every decision. And while that bottleneck grew, I ignored my real priorities.”

“So, you could not keep the keys AND do your job, at the same time?”

“No,” Ryan said. “I had to assign the key ring to a more appropriate person.”

“What did you learn?”

“I learned that the key ring was just a symbol for power that had little to do with effectiveness. And sometimes the key ring had nothing to do with keys. The key ring had more to do with decisions that should have been made at a different level of work, a more appropriate level of work.”

“And?” I pressed.

“And, so I have to constantly look for the key ring, I am holding, that I really need to let go.”