Downstream: the ‘hard’ measures through which you track what you’re up to.
Upstream: what makes it all possible – the intentions, commitments and relationships from which everything flows.
If you commit to changing a downstream measure without doing the upstream work that supports it, you could easily end up having a very different effect to that which you’re intending.
An example. You commit to answer the phone every time within three rings (a downstream measure). And then you discover that everyone feels so much pressure to perform that they’re abruptly cutting off conversations with customers, frantically interrupting them as they speak, and failing to listen deeply to their concerns.
If the downstream change is going to have a chance of meaning something, you’re going to have to attend to the upstream source that gives it a home in which it can flourish. In this case that’s the genuineness of your intention to serve your customers, and everyone’s capacity to stay receptive, grounded and in relationship to others as they learn new ways to act.
Without this attention the shiny little fish you’re throwing in the downstream waters will survive only for a short while. And when people see them wither once again, you’ll be adding to their cynicism and resignation rather than doing something that could have your intentions flourish.