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  • benjaminnewman01

Mod. 5.2 - Decentralized Decision Making

As a leader, do you support decentralizing decision making as much as possible? What are the benefits and possible risks? In your experience and context, what other organizational changes are needed to evolve toward more empowered decision making?


I definitely support the principles of decentralized decision making as an incredibly valuable framework for efficiency and effectiveness in a setting with diverse voices and stakeholders. Supporting it “as much as possible” is something I need to consider further. That framing seems to me to imply that it is a superior form of decision making that should become the general operating principle, unless a project or decision making process has special considerations that would require another framework or process to be employed. In a large company, I can imagine it is very important to have a general practice for decision making, otherwise producing results gets bogged down in procedures.

Reflecting on my own work experience, I can think of a few scenarios in which decentralized decision making may actually be counterproductive. First, if the company culture is not already well-versed or has a shared context for introducing frameworks into the workplace more broadly. Second, if decentralized decision making isn’t invested in and supported by leadership at every level through training, example setting, and trial and error. Third, if the current decision making process is widely viewed as effective. I can see where introducing “new concepts or ideas” could be perceived as “making a problem where there isn’t one” or at worst a challenge to authority and leadership.

That said, in every job I’ve had, there are team meetings in which some form of decision making process occurs, but without ever establishing a shared practice for how decisions are made. Whoever is leading the meeting usually shares an agenda or topics to discuss and the usual hierarchical structure of players share their remarks with other team members silently listening or only speaking when called upon. From the perspective of lower-level staff, these meetings demonstrate just how much their voices aren’t needed in the meeting and can lead towards resentment, instead of fostering a greater spirit of shared group investment. I would say that if anyone in a company has ever left a meeting feeling it was a waste of time, didn’t accomplish its intended purpose, or exacerbated a situation, then proposing a framework to support greater effectiveness in the context of team meetings would create an opening to introduce different decision making models.

In my experience, people are most open to experimentation that could lead to broader change in areas where they already recognize inefficiencies. By addressing an area that is already seen as inefficient by leadership and offering potential solutions and to lead the process, emerging leaders have a great opportunity to both gain favor in the eyes of their superiors and slowly move towards creating a more decentralized decision making work environment. Regardless of professional setting, this program has further cemented the importance of intentionally creating guidelines/posts for all kinds of workplace scenarios and provided numerous insights and options for how, where and when to consider introducing them in the workplace more broadly.

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