Decision Clarity in the Age of Agile Organizations
Agile, Teamwork, Collaboration, Cognitive Diversity…all of these ideas are swirling around in modern management theory. Sometimes it feels like we should all just stand in the middle of a room all day and talk. That might be extreme, but research has proven that we are better decision makers together than when we are alone. It also allows us to move faster after a decision if the team members already have the context.
Teams that are focused on these modern management techniques are finding some snags in the implementation. Some are frustrated with the speed of business. Some are frustrated with the lack of clarity and “churn”. Although it takes effort, there are ways to make great decisions AND make them fairly quickly. This is a big goal of our Agile efforts here at Interstates.
The confusion often starts when we confuse decision authority with decision input. With so much group work going on, teams can sometimes slip into fuzzy decision making. Are we all making this decision? Can I veto this if I don’t think it is right? Isn’t that why you got us all together, so we could make the decision together? It may even slide into a full blown expectation of consensus. This is not the intent of Agile!
Who makes the decision (authority) should be made clear
This is as much for the leaders’ benefit as much as it is the team. The Leader owns the responsibility to drive the decision in a time frame that supports the organization. They also have the duty to design how they get decision input. Leaders should clearly inform the team on how decision making on “this one” will work. Example: “I’d like your input on this decision that I’ll be making Friday”. This is a key duty of leadership…to bring clarity to the process.
Leaders will have different techniques to get this input and may use different tactics to get others to help in the decision making. Things like voting, 7 hats, and other techniques are all on the table and could change for every input session and decision. The core idea is that it is intentional and that who makes the decision is clear.
Key Idea: Know who is deciding! (especially if it is you)
If you are on a team, don’t tolerate dancing around this…especially if you are on the team providing input. Ask! You are helping the leader and the team if you do this. It might be a little uncomfortable to ask as we “build these muscles”.
If you are unsure what your decision making authority is, ask your Leader. Seek it out. If you run across it in your every day work, pick up the phone and get advice. In many cases, your leader will encourage you to own the decision, yet remind you of your responsibility to get Agile input. The worst situation that can emerge here is deferral. Waiting for others to decide when we are unsure. Hoping the problem resolves. Letting lack of consensus keep us from deciding.
Is it clear what decisions are being made around you? … and who owns making them?
Dave Crumrine, Interstates President