Don’t Fall for ‘Top Down’ or ‘Bottom Up’

Anthony Coppedge
2 min readOct 4, 2023

Should fulfilling the vision and mission of your organization be top-down or bottom-up?

It’s both, but perhaps not in the way we’ve been taught to think about it (hierarchically, like a pyramid). What if it’s an infinite loop and not a pyramid?

In the image below, tell me: where’s the ‘top’? And where’s the ‘bottom’? The answer is that there are only sides, no top or bottom. And, best of all, there is only one side because it is infinite (look closely).

So, metaphorically, the Mobius Loop represents the ‘sides’ in any organization: those in an executive function and those in a tactical execution function all on the same side. (Yes, sometimes people do both). These are equal in importance and value because they approach work from differing perspectives but should align on the same outcomes.

A Mobius Loop is a one-sided surface with no boundaries. It looks like an infinite loop. Like a normal loop, an ant crawling along it would never reach an end, but in a normal loop, an ant could only crawl along either the top or the bottom.

Depicition of a Mobius Loop — a one-sided object

My hypothesis is that when we have a shared understanding of our vision and our mission (often called a ‘north star’ or a ‘guiding star’), there is no distinction between ‘executive’ and ‘tactical’ when it comes to learning what does and what does not add value; the outcome for the benefit of those we serve (clients) is simply there in varying degrees or it is not.

Therefore, while the initial vision and mission may well come from the executive functions, all strategies that are designed to achieve the vision and mission are a shared learning experience with intentional feedback loops with recurring points of reflection designed to validate or change the strategies. In this sense, after the first iteration, everyone owns the outcome together and all ideas have the same weight without regard of ‘rank’.

To date, I’ve found that the OKR model tends to be the most useful construct for applying this learning loop if the executive functions and tactical functions can share a common belief that through better questions, the best answers can come from anywhere.

#Agile #BusinessAgility #Leadership #Management #MobiusLoop #LearningCulture #OKR

--

--

Anthony Coppedge

I lead the vision for how business agility is infused in Digital Sales at IBM. I relish the chance to sabotage mediocrity.