Tales from the Pyramid – What versus how

Newly promoted team leaders or even managers do not always know how to behave in their new role, especially those climbing up the ladder from operations and technical backgrounds.

What these new managers do not always understand is the sudden switch from orders to carry out to empowerment with more autonomy and decisions to take.

What versus how

The lower the position in the hierarchical pyramid, the more job execution is dictated. Procedures, instructions, work guides, worksheets detail the “how” to do, in what order, with what means and so on, letting little freedom to do differently.
This is particularly true in industry with high standardization.

Lego_018aWhat can appear as fearsome alienation is often a cozy non-commitment execution role, depleted from any responsibility and further stress. As long as you stick to the instructions, as stupid as they may be, you are safe from reproaches.

Conversely, the higher to the top of the hierarchical pyramid, the more autonomy is granted, with increasing demand about engagement and self-management. higher positions are given goals and objectives, the “what” to achieve, without specifying how. The choice of “how” is left to the discretion of the subordinates.

Thus the former line leaders, technicians or skilled workers, used to receive and to execute instructions are often somewhat confused when making their leap onto managerial functions.

They are now in charge and must learn to translate the “what” they are assigned into “how” to their own subordinates. Of course, most of the time the transition is sharp-edged, there is seldom training or coaching to help the newly promoted to find ways into their new role.

Digging the hole into the pyramid

Some find their way by trial-and-error, a long and sometimes painful process with former pals being the less forgiving in case of error.

Some may regret their former comfort of mindless execution and some never really embrace their new role. The latter fill the ranks of the “good workers gone poor managers”.

Among them, many will fill their positions without delivering expecting results nor behaviors. They create what I call the hole in the pyramid.

But this is the next story.

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