< Growing Leaders
< Total System Power
TOTAL SYSTEM POWER
By Barry Oshry
Developers, Fixers, Integrators, and Validators
What each of us can do in our multiple roles as Tops,
Middles, Bottoms, and Customers to create a system
with outstanding capacity to survive and develop.
Page 1 of 4
We are all Tops, Middles, Bottoms, and Customers
Top, Middle, Bottom, and Customer are conditions all of us face in whatever
position we occupy.
In certain interactions, we are Top when we have designated responsibility
(accountability) for some piece of the action whether its the whole
organization, a division within it, a department, a project team, or a
In other interactions, we are Bottom when we are experiencing problems with
our condition and/or with the condition of the system, problems that we think
higher ups ought to be taking care of but are not. We can be Bottom at any level
of the organization.
In other interactions, we are Middle, when we are experiencing conflicting
demands, priorities, and pressures coming at us from two or more individuals or
And in still other interactions, we are Customer, when we are looking to some
other person or group for a product or service we need in order to move our work
Even in the most complex, multilevel, multifunctional organizations, each of
us is constantly moving in and out of Top/Middle/Bottom/Customer conditions. In
each of these conditions there are unique opportunities for contributing to
total system power; and in each there are pitfalls that readily lead us to
forfeit those contributions.
In this paper we will examine:
- the unique contributions we can make to total system
power when we are in Top, Middle, Bottom, and Customer
- the pitfalls in each condition that can cause us to forfeit
those contributions, and
- how we can avoid those pitfalls while working together to
create systems with outstanding capacities to survive and
The author encourages distribution of this article.