Engineering &

Change Management


by Jesse W. Brogan, President

The Management Upgrade Shop




The Federal Government has accepted the need to modernize its management systems, especially as it relates to management metrics and reporting systems.  Their start was through contacting contractors who were adept in use of various efficiency techniques that are in use in the private sector.  Change has been slow, and more on the surface than any real change in management.

Perhaps the most telling witness is the existence of the Senior Executive System (SES), a general pool of management expertise within the Federal Government that is maintained through the efforts of the Office of Personnel Management.  These “experts” in management were effectively unable to accomplish the change-management purpose, and sought external experts.

The level of SES expertise is certainly not sufficient to maintain the skill of change management within the system; which puts the question of why anyone would trust these same senior executives to find and hire experts from the private sector.

A review of expertise, readily available as advertising materials on the Internet, reveals some of the same basic principles for modern change management as those of civilian leaders recognized in the field of efficiency.  The most immediate would be Dr. Demming, whose work is quoted regularly by those who are in this field.

Dr. Demming was a statistician.  He is principally raised as the source of change concepts such as continuous improvement – an immensely popular approach with modern managers.

For those who understand his work, using him as a reference just indicates that the customers are ignorant of his work.  He was very much aware that intelligent change has to be well planned, and incremental.  The search for improvement was to be continuous, the improvements themselves were not.

Clearly, there is a need for something better, for something that makes such a consistent and obviously-impressive application that the name of the developer is not necessary to “sell” the improvement approach.

A direction for a new approach to change management is also something to be made obvious.  In the case of modern change management, this too is obvious.  Consider that modern management is not effectively in charge of current changes.  The changes are based on processes that are felt to lead to improvements. The improvements are put into the general management of contractors. 

With this approach, there is nothing that the senior managers have to gain through the efforts of those who are implementing the change.  There is, in that sense, no measurable difference between the success and failure of the change as to accomplishing any predefined and measurable result.  Current change efforts, such as are inherent in continuous improvement are measured by completion of a process.


Solution through Management Engineering:

Solution can be made obvious through the emerging study of management engineering, the application of basic industrial engineering techniques to the work of management, the work of gaining performance through an organization.  This expertise has applications that address both the techniques of management and the communication of technical support for the working manager.

To give this study perspective, it is the study of management work, and addresses what the working manager must do to gain a performance.  It is only indirectly concerned with non-performance concepts such as the effective use of authority.  It is focused on what needs to happen to get a result, and specifically on what the manager has to do to make it happen.

The missing management technique in modern change management is obvious in this format; it is the stated failure of management that begins with a failure to have a pre-stated result for the change.

For a solution to this challenge situation, management engineering provides the engineered assignment process.  This recognizes the result of change as a primary product to be gained through the efforts of others, and addresses the work that the manager will perform in assuring that result.

In this, solution will be an engineered tool for use by management in gaining a result.  This tool is the 5-step engineered assignment process.  This process is both simple and obviously effective, thereby meeting both our initial criteria.


The Engineered Assignment Process

1.    Define the product.

2.    Identify the Assignee.

3.    Negotiate with the Assignee.

4.    Make the turn-key assignment.

5.    Manage the effort to completion.


This assignment process addresses the obvious, and communicates it in a way that is understandable to both the management engineer and the working manager who has a change to accomplish.

Before examining the process in detail, it is necessary to address one engineering rule that impacts upon the general assignment process.  If a manager is unable to assign the final product, which often happens with change, then the assignment goes to the product that the manager is able to fully define.  This is often “the next step” toward the desired change; it is something that must be accomplished if there is to be a solution.  Gaining such an interim product will partly define a next step in the change process.  That “next step” can then be separately assigned as a further action.


1.  Define the Product:

For the engineered process, the key is in defining a product with such definition that there is a clear and obvious difference between success and failure.  This is obviously necessary if that the success is to be managed to completion. 

There are two types of product, the end result and feedback products that go to management to assure that the desired end result is being accomplished.  The end result is just one product that defines what must be accomplished if the change is to be both realized, managed to completion.

Also, the definition must be all-inclusive if it is to be functional.  It must address the time and place for product delivery as product characteristics.  It must also address these as characteristics for any internal feedback products.  It must address the conditions that will define success and failure in the delivery of product so that delivery of the various product will indicate the success of the assignment.

When addressed to change, we have two states to define; the current state and the desired state after the change.  The change is then measured by the accomplishment of the desired end state, and such management feedback products as are necessary to assure that the change is being (and/or has been) accomplished.


2.  Identify the Assignee:

This second step is required for management, rather than for the proper exercise of authority.  It is now common for the initial Assignor to give responsibility for identifying a performer to a subordinate manager.  The engineered assignment process recognizes the importance of managing whatever is assigned.  This is lost if the person who is assigned the responsibility can shift responsibility to some other subordinate, and be effectively relieved from that responsibility through proper exercise of managerial authority.


The Assignment Rule:

If any result is important enough for a manger to assign

It is also important enough to manage the performance.


The present approach often involves directing change to everyone involved.  The recognized rule from general management is “When anything is assigned to more than one person, then nobody is responsible for the result.”  There must be someone who is responsible if there is to be effective management over the performance.

The Assignee must be someone who can be given effective responsibility to make the change happen, and to see it through to completion.  The identification of the Assignee acts as the identification of the key resource that will be used in the performance process that guarantees performance.


3.  Negotiate with the Assignee:

Negotiation serves several important management purposes.  It assures that there is a meeting of minds on the product that is to be gained; it assures that communication has been effective.  It provides a means to identify and agree upon a change process that will be used to reach the desired end state.  It provides the means to identify the resources that will be needed to operate the process and reasonably assure the success of the effort.

Negotiation can involve staged efforts.  There can be a separate identification of product requirement, followed by a tasking to identify potential processes and the resources that will be needed by each.  Then there would be a briefing on these, followed by recommendation and decision on what is to be done as the process.  There would also be a discussion and decision on the resource base that is to be given into the charge of the
Assignee for use in assuring the change.

Negotiation is also the step where the management plan is finalized in terms of the delivery of management feedback or products as will be necessary to assure the performance of the change. 

Negotiation effectively establishes a performance plan for the change, and a management plan for the one who is responsible to see to that performance through the assignment process.

A third plan is inherent in the management plan.  Exception management is to be applied when and where the performance plan is in threat.  The threat is the definition for effective exception-management involvement by the Assignor.

It might be noted that there is potential for seeking the benefit of the knowledge of other subordinate managers as part of a negotiation process.  The unwillingness of other managers to support the process is not a valid argument to avoid assignment, but is a guide for the negotiation process.  There is nothing that limits the negotiation to the Assignee and Assignor.  Others can be brought into the process as necessary and convenient to assure that the process is workable and the resource base adequate to reasonably assure performance.

To make this effective, others can be brought into the negotiation effort by the Assignor, and their support is directed as performance.  Managers are paid to do management and that includes the maintenance and improvement of performance processes.  Where internal support is necessary to assure the change, that internal support can be separately assigned to these other managers, making their personal success as managers dependent upon providing any planned support.  Any threat of failure in their support would then be an exception to be brought directly to the Assignor for resolution.

The same general approach addresses knowledge.  Managers are hired to provide the benefit of their intelligence and experience.  Any failure to provide reasonable intelligence and experience is a failure that is subject to exception action by the Assignor.  If such a failure impacts negatively on the change process, their support failure will be recognized, with the likelihood of exception action against that individual manager.

The result of the negotiation step of the process is an effective internal contract. The Assignee will promise to perform the process using the planned resources to gain the result, and the Assignor will promise to provide the resources and otherwise support the process and assure the potential for success.  The Assignor also promises to see to any planned internal support by other managers as planned for change accomplishment.


4.  Make the Turn-Key Assignment:

The assignment action is an internal investment; it is acceptance of the cost in terms of the resources committed in order to deliver the benefit of the change.  It is implementation of the effective performance and management plans established during negotiation.  It is the making of the internal investment that will accomplish the performance of the change.

As noted above, the assignment is not limited to a single action with a single Assignee.  The only requirement is that there be a single Assignee to take responsibility for each and every required performance that assures the change.  There are no limits to the number of assignees who may be required to support what the Assignor assigns.


5.  Manage the Effort to Completion:

Purpose can be fulfilled only through the delivery of productive result; in this case delivery of the change in terms of negotiated product.  The making of the assignment, even in accord with the plans, is insufficient to assure that product.  There is still management effort involved in receiving the products and taking such exception actions as are found necessary and convenient to assure the performance.

As previously stated, management engineering is based on what the manager is to do, not on what others are directed to do.  Its primary focus is on what the working manager must do to gain the result through others.  It puts the working manager more in charge of the change process, and of the performance gained through what the manager does.

This is one of the goals of management engineering; it is to put the working manager in more-effective charge of organizational performances.


Difference from Authority-Based Techniques:

You should also note how different this is than the authority-based approaches that are in common use today.  There is no attempt to have subordinate managers “buy-in” to the change process.  It is directed.

In the engineering viewpoint, the act of change for the benefit of the organization is part of management.  Managers are not requested to do management.  Management is what they are paid for, and the work of management is to be directed and made a part of their general performance of their jobs.  The change is “assigned” to someone, and others are directed to support that Assignee in doing what was directed from above.  Failure of the change is failure of a management performance!


The First Rule of Management Engineering

Management is an essential;

you cannot improve management,

by replacing it with something else.


Management is what the manager does.  In the vision of management engineering, the assigning manager is a practical artist who is performing a management work process.  The engineered assignment process is a working tool for this manager, a technical tool for the manager’s application. 

This is a substantial difference from authority-based management, where the manager can approach change as an external process to be given over to the guidance and support of external change managers. 

The engineering concept of support is technical support for the working manager who has changes to accomplish through the efforts of others.  Action goes to the manager, not to the hired help.  The manager, as the one in charge, is given technical support addressing what must happen to reach the desired end state of the change.


The final Issue:

What if the manager doesn’t know what has to be accomplished?  This is a second type of problem, and one more in line with potentials for traditional consulting support. 

The engineering application is again obvious.  If the manager doesn’t know what to do, then taking action to make something happen is not intelligent.  The manager must know what to accomplish before action becomes reasonable.

Management engineering is addressed to what the manager wants to accomplish, not to finding something to “sell” to the manager as a product that can then be obtained. 


For more information on management engineering, visit the Management Engineering Website at

For downloaded articles using management engineering tools and techniques, visit the Management Engineering Newsletter site at



This article is for both consultants and senior managers who have change management respsibilities.