Hierarchical Amplification

by | May 25, 2011 | Experience, Systems Thinking | 2 comments

Consider one of your peers or subordinates or juniors some one at the same level as yours or below. Lets name him Jerry.

Next time Jerry or some one like him/her requests for a non-trivial action from you, reflect on how your thinking, processes this ask.

It is my experience that I will often assess, analyze, think, process, ask for clarification, dialogue, debate, argue and then maybe act just as requested by Jerry or act in refinement or discard that request. My internal rational, emotional, spiritual being awakens and tries to decide.

Lets now consider some one who is your boss one level up or maybe three levels up. Some one whose name you have dropped while trying to convince your peers. This shall be Terry.

Imagine Terry walking over to your office and making a non-trivial ask. How do you respond to this ask?

Many a times, I will ‘just do it’. No significant resistance, no time lag, not much processing, simply accepting that I should act upon Terry’s ask.

What if Jerry and Terry were asking for the same action from you? I suspect that most of  us will treat the same ask differently depending on the source’s hierarchical standing within your organization.

I like to label this hierarchical amplification.


  1. Todd Morrison

    Good term.

    Next, how does the intrinsic value of the task change based on the source of the request?

    Assuming that the non-management peer is a go-getting-company-endorser, I bet the peer’s task is ‘relational’ to the direction of the team’s focus.

    This, in itself, is a second hand account. The peer interprets a goal and has to either proxy, rephrase or refine. I do this daily, since I don’t require micro-management.

    Though, this is like saying the word ‘cup’ to define all of the gazillions of types of specific cups; it’s an abstraction. The task we perceive, given the locality of implementation-complexity, is always a little different than the task.

    Then, a manager asks the same question. In my mind this gets me closer to the source of the river.

    It is for this reason specifically that I enjoy working with small agile teams. You can flatten roles and get as close to the goal as possible.

    What do you think?

    • Dhaval Panchal

      >> how does the intrinsic value of the task change based on the source of the request?
      I think that dialogue before implementation opens doors for creative problem solving and potentially leads to task & value redefinition. Gets us closer to taking shared ownership and maximizing ‘right’ value from effort. Instances of blind execution often create more waste than value.

      I could not agree with you more in the joy of working on small agile teams with flatten role structure.


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