How do you help decentralise decision-making?

Decision-Making in Today’s Organisations

Today, let’s talk about something that’s been buzzing in organisational corridors, and it’s a topic that I feel is important in the Agile world: decentralised decision-making. 🌍

I’ll start by stating that I believe that decentralised decision-making is a necessity for modern organisations and I’ll explain further using some of my observations and insights.

In the traditional setting, decisions were the property of the top tier. But, this centralised approach?

Well, it’s been seen to be relatively slow and sometimes outdated.

Let’s look closer into this transformative journey that every organisation should embark on.

Shift from Centralised Decision-Making

Historically, organisations, particularly those emerging from the 20th century, have put significant decision-making ability in a centralised function. Those making the decisions hoarded this ability to one area.

This means every little decision had to take a trip up to the top and then come right back down.

So, what’s the result of this trip?

Delayed actions!

This method may ensure quality decisions, but they often come “too late”, or the information has even changed.

Fast forward to today. Our environment? Unstable. Unpredictable.

In today’s environment, we are in a much more volatile, variable place where decisions need to be fast, often made with minimal information.

The need for speed is paramount. These centralised hubs can’t keep up. By the time they’ve gathered enough info to make an informed choice, circumstances have shifted.

Empowering the Edges 🌟

Here’s where the magic happens. πŸš€

The best organisations are learning to distribute decision-making power, trusting those closer to the info to call the shots. They are taking the steps necessary to move towards decentralisation. πŸ™Œ

The goal is to move from a structure where “everybody in the centre believes they are the right people to make decisions” to one where power and trust are distributed.

So, how do we start this transformation?

  • Build a Culture of Trust: This journey is anchored in trust. Believe that those with the info can make sound decisions. You have to be able to trust that the people with the information can make good decisions.
  • Bounded Decision Making: I’m not saying let one developer change the organisation’s trajectory. It’s about aligning the right decision with the right person. We’re talking about a balance.
  • Engage & Mentor: Instead of seeking decisions, turn the experts into mentors. Engage, converse, and soak in their wisdom. This not only helps in skill transfer but gradually shifts the decision-making balance. Go to them with ideas, go to them when you don’t have ideas, and work with them. And out of the other end is going to come good stuff.
  • Evidence-Based Autonomy: As teams show consistent, informed decision-making, they earn more autonomy. Over time, centralised leaders will recognise this and give teams the reins, bit by bit. Slowly, they’ll relinquish some control, fostering team autonomy.
  • Intentionality & Confidence: Teams need to demonstrate their capabilities. Once established, it paves the way for intent-based leadership. It’s about intentionality.

Alignment Over Management: In a decentralised setup, leaders focus more on ensuring everyone is aligned with the organisational vision rather than micromanaging every step. It’s about ensuring everyone understands what we’re trying to achieve and why.”

Evolution and Transformation

The road ahead of decentralising decision-making is no overnight journey. It’s a gradual process, often challenging and slow. In fact, they can be pretty painful.

The ultimate aim?

Empower organisational teams to make impactful decisions, allowing leaders to focus on the broader vision. 🌱

The benefits?

Faster, more informed decisions. Greater team autonomy and trust. And a leadership focused on alignment and vision rather than minute details.

If you’re looking to embrace this modern decentralised decision-making model, I invite you to my Agile and Scrum courses, where we unpack its benefits for modern organisations.

author avatar
John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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