Make Management Changes Continuous

When you build Software, a good rule of thumb is “make changes small and deploy quickly”. This ensures the things you break by bad decisions only create small annoyances that can be rapidly fixed.

But more importantly, we know from queueing theory that big batches of changes tend to get stuck in queue and threaten all progress. A great book on this is The Principles of Product Development Flow by Reinertsen. Highly recommend.

But this post isn’t about building software, it’s about management changes. I have noticed lately that management changes (promotions, moving people between teams, making people into managers) suffer from the same challenges of queueing that software projects do.

The antipattern is that too many changes get queued up and released to the org at the same time, which creates two problems. One, it creates anxiety for the organization because all the desk shuffling etc has to happen all at once. Two, it creates anxiety in the folks who did not get the promotions or team moves they desired. Who now believe they have to wait for the next huge management release cycle.

And this causes people to look for greener pastures. Someplace where they are noticed and appreciated.

But of course, they very much might be appreciated in their current workplace, but because upper management wants to make all these changes “at once” it forces them to wait while the squeaking wheels are attended to.

But waiting, when you are running a queue, is a bad thing.

The wait/release cycle for management changes is generally a local optimization for upper management and finance departments that does not actually save any time or reduce anxiety in employees. The best approach is, like in building software, to make improvements quickly, in very small batch sizes.

That is not to say that employees should not learn patience in a healthy organization that wants to promote slow growth. But treat these folks as individuals. Make your promotion cycles consistent and quarterly at least. And when someone says “we have to do this once a year for everyone”, ask them why not do promotions throughout the year for each individual on their yearly anniversaries? The chance of making a large mistake, and losing valuable employees, is massively reduced.

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