strategy+business and Ram Charan – Let’s Further Define “Altitude”

By Michelle Malay Carter on September 29, 2009 

In Author’s Choice:? What Is and Isn’t Micromanaging?,strategy+business discusses Ram Charan’s book about raising the level of corporate discourse, Owning Up: The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask.

The Right Altitude
Ram Charan uses the phrase, asking questions at the right altitude.? Once again, intuitive proof that we all sense work levels, but don’t have a language to speak about them.

If we didn’t have measures for distance, and we wanted to talk about altitude, we’d be stuck using words like high, medium, and low – relative terms that you and I could debate all day and not agree.? However, with measures like feet or meters, we have a common understanding and efficiency in our conversation.

Similarly, you and I could stand in a room and argue all day about whether the room was warm or cold and never come to an agreement.? But we could walk together to the thermostat and instantly agree on the temperature.

Let’s Create a Collective Understanding – Work Levels
Understanding work levels allows us to design work enabling organizations.? Understanding work levels and human capability to problem solve in levels allows for matching people to roles.? Understanding work levels allows us to match people with leaders.? Understanding work levels is foundation knowledge for management science.? Did I mention that I think you should understand work levels?

I’m OK.? You’re OK.? Let’s fix the system.

Filed Under Requisite Organization, Strategy, Work Levels


2 Responses to “strategy+business and Ram Charan – Let’s Further Define “Altitude””

  1. Glenn on October 19th, 2009 7:50 am

    I was introduced to work levels in 1990, and have been working with them since. Every year my appreciation for that knowledge as one of, if the most important tool in the manager’s tool box, is reinforced. Try it — you’ll see!

  2. John Fissure on April 27th, 2011 5:16 am

    Work level sounds like the most useful concept, as though they might indeed allow us to design “work enabling organizations” as you describe it above. The problem is that what you call “work levels” arises from complex and highly individual aspects of each managers psychology. In my view it’s not so much about “enabling organizations” as management insight and behavior. Having worked for one of the UK’s largest corporations for 15 years (and now thank god escaped!) matching “individuals with roles” and “people with leaders” is actually impractical in most real life situations.