What is the MT approach for asking for strategy justifications from the higher ups? I don't want to seem like a naysayer but I do really want to understand why someone thinks the direction we are taking is the right one and I have not seen a compelling argument made.


We are having an extreme focus in my division on accounting for all of the work that we do and the manpower needed so that we "maximize" resources. While a noble goal, the tools just aren't there to do it efficiently so this accounting is being done by higher level rolls and bundled to communicate upward. To aid this, additional roles have even been created to keep track of this.

Meanwhile, our front line teams are pretty razor thin and being given notice that they will be asked to do more if the data "shows capacity". Keep in mind that I am in a service industry so that quantifying day to day to work often requires making assumptions and figuring out how to standardize those assumptions is also something that is taking up alot of time amongst the middle management.

I just don't see the cost-benefit working out in our favor, how to ask gracefully and continue with the effort?

P>S> I should add that I have read "Heart of Change" and I have not been made to "feel" that this is the right step for the organization either.

tlhausmann's picture
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I work in IT. When conducting strategic planning I tie projects/initiatives to bullet points from the over-arching strategic plan of the non-profit organization I serve.

The strategic plan reference points are listed right along with the annual strategic IT plan update which details on-going or new initiatives...all justified by the over-arching strategic plan.

The weakness of this approach is that the underlying ROI is not calculated but every initiative has *documented* alignment with the institution/company. How I make an attempt to "account" for our time is to point to the plan--documenting accomplishments. We do not do any kind of charge-backs for our services.

Great thread! Does this help?

ccleveland's picture

BLUF: Figure out what they want from the current solution and provide a better way.

First, try to understand exactly what your management expects from this data. What are they trying to achieve? The hard part of this is to look at from their point-of view. For example, you said that your team is “pretty razor thin.” From your point of view, I’m sure that’s true. Your management doesn’t share that perspective and wants more information.

Once you understand management’s needs and perspective, you can identify ways to make the process better…from their perspective. It doesn’t help you or them, if you tell them something’s a problem, unless there’s a better alternative. The “better alternative” is judged through the eyes of management.

I’ve been in a very similar situation; although, I was the one asking the team for somewhat laborious metrics on their work progress. Several people griped loud enough for me to know about it. We incorporated some improvements based on their suggestions, and, as part of our original plan, we have a better tool in development to make the capture easier. Despite their concerns about it taking away from “real work,” we now have much better visibility on how much effort it takes to do the tasks done by that team.


Mark's picture
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Be very cautious. Questions like yours - while well intentioned and often helpful - are rarely viewed that way. This falls into the same category as trying to give feedback to your boss.

This is not to say the strategy is wrong...but it surely isn't being communicated to you in a way that gets your best effort behind it. In my experience, that means a mid level manager is failing, and the strategy is probably just fine.

The way to get at the strategy and its impact on you is through a mentor. Someone not in your chain of command, but at a higher level - high enough to have some visibility both into the business case for what is happening, and into why that got translated into what you're dealing with.


cwcollin's picture

that's good advice. I think I have several people with whom I can share a picture of what is going on in our organization without pushing directly back on the leaders of this change.

juliahhavener's picture
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Just to add in my two coppers: I've found that this goes much further when it's CLEAR you are just looking for understanding so you can improve the process - not pushing back.

For the first time ever, I've been told that my willingness to ask those questions is a strength that is valued - this is in large part because I've learned the hard way how to frame the question. I take my opinion completely out of the picture. "Help me understand what we're driving for so I can help us get there," rather than, "This is the dumbest thing ever, we're going in circles when we should have just turned left at Albequerque." On occassion, I may still think it, but NO ONE hears it except my dog.

I've also learned to read when someone feels like I'm "pushing back" even when I'm not and speak directly to their response. I re-emphasize that I want to understand the (problem, process, question) completely so I can help with the (resolution, process improvement, answer) to the best of my ability.

I've gotten better at it. I no longer stand on the mountain yelling 'THIS IS GALACTICALLY STUPID'. Now I just stand under the pretty light and say 'help me understand how I can best serve you...please?'

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Great stuff. We are talking about improving team performance at the moment. We have a lot of staff that are "pushing back" and feel they have the right to do so. I printed your comments out today and discussed it with a couple of them. The light came on straight away and they could see how their behaviour could be misinterpreted.

Looking forward to sharing with the wider team. Thanks again for sharing.

juliahhavener's picture
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Wow! Glad you got some mileage out of it, Alex! Very pleased it gave your team a light - sometimes it's VERY hard to be on the other side and just aching to know what's going on and why it doesn't make any sense.

And it was a fabulous idea of yours to take it to them. Congrats on finding a way.