The Intentional Organisation - Issue #8 - Taking Decisions on Deciding
1. Why Can't We Decide on Governance?
One of the most considerable frustrations in my work across the years has been the endless search for a meaningful and straightforward way to get people to agree on Governance Principles. I'm not referring to strategic corporate governance efforts, but rather on the operational governance of who takes decisions every day, who needs to be pulled in when a decision needs to be taken, who needs to be informed after. Such a foundational design element is too often neglected, often reduced to a few process maps hidden in a drawer.
This leads to most meetings being long discussions about who needs to decide and how. Writing emails becomes a hunt for those that need to be copied (with the result we tend to add everyone). The act itself of taking a decision is postponed until the next PowerPoint deck will contain yet another series of slides filled with numbers. Every manager looks for their security blanket, as Linus did, in the form of longer documents and more people involved in the process.
When taking decisions becomes an exception.
One day I was asked, by a colleague: Why do you take so many decisions alone? I looked back, saying that I didn't understand the question. I usually involved in my choices any person that would be able to add valuable inputs. I rarely involved my boss unless they also could contribute. You make your work look too simple he then added.
Office Politics is probably one answer to the question above. Organisations are often plagued by a myriad of untold rules, unmet requests, untaken decisions. Layers of middle managers are often needed solely to write that additional report, participate the n+1 unnecessary meeting, be present to support the liturgy of hierarchology, in an atmosphere that can best be described as byzantine.
It is the most effective form of self-protection of bureaucracy. Not the clarity of rules, that Max Weber wrote about. But instead, its haziness.
Empowerment of what?
This is probably why Reed Hastings' idea of dispersed -decision-making seems so revolutionary: decisions are pushed down to the level where people have the competence (and are paid for) taking a decision. No Bottlenecks. The above, however, for me, is basic common sense.
The paradox is that the same executives and organisations that don't take decisions on decision-making are the same that often talk boldly about empowerment and delegation. How can you empower or delegate something for which a framework determining responsibilities does not exist? Empowerment itself becomes simply a game of passing the buck and procrastination.
Why don't we allow us to consider this significant issue, and intentionally design the elements around Decision Making? Forget old-fashioned RACI (you can add more letters to the acronym if you want) matrix, which quickly dust off. Take the time to design your decision-making process, making it practical as much as possible.
It's not a trivial activity, as it will support and guarantee the resilience of your organisation. It would be best if you pushed on Decision Making as an individual competency, but also like the capability of the entire organisation. It is even more needed today when the outside scenario requires nimbleness in finding the right occasion.
2. My Latest Posts
Basecamp is a clear example of Intentional Organisation. As with the Netflix Case Study, I have decided to start writing about a few…
Last week I have been invited to participate in a lesson at the Universität St.Gallen (HSG) by prof. Antoinette Weibel, where I presented,…
It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work was written already two years ago by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the two…
Our Ultimate Quest for the Meaning of Work has started with a Brief History of Work, where I tried to analyse the evolution of the…
I’ve decided to make available what I read across the week, not only through social sharing (usually available on both Twitter and LinkedIn)…
3. Reading Suggestions
Here a selection of what I have read this week, with a new format.
An interesting post from Anne Helen Petersen's newsletter, looking at how Email has evolved from a much sought communication tool to a work in itself, eating time from the rest of our jobs. #Productivity
Remember you can always follow my latest curation of links directly online.
4. The (un) Intentional Organisation 😁
5. Keeping in Touch
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