In one of the exercises in our matrix management training, we ask people to analyse different styles of decision-making in their organizations. We get them to map the different styles on a graph where the axes are ‘involvement’ and ‘time’.
Of course, decisions that involve more people and higher levels of consensus tend to take much longer, though they may be necessary to achieve buy-in for certain decisions.
But when participants rank two of the styles, “the boss decides” and “an empowered individual decides” they tend to rank these styles of decision-making as “low involvement”. It’s a widely held assumption, but is this true?
One of the challenges in a matrix organization can be a slowing down of decision-making. Because everybody is more connected, there is often an unspoken belief that everyone should be part of the decision. In large complex organizations this is not sustainable. We must have the trust to let others make decisions that affect us without attending all the meetings and voting on every proposition.
People want to feel involved, and where possible this helps to improve the application of decisions that affect everybody. However, having the ability to get on and do your job is also deeply involving and satisfying. We shouldn’t forget the involvement of the individual: sometimes we have an expert in our team who should just be able to make decisions and do their job without the need to report back to a meeting full of people who know less about the issue than they do,who then vote on what to do next!
Similarly, sometimes the boss needs to make a decision. They may consult but some organizational issues are part of their role – not a topic for collective vote.
To me involvement means involving the right people and empowering them to do their jobs, not having everyone waiting until the next meeting to make a decision .
Clarifying decision rights in your organization is important, both to speed them up and to be explicit about when we will include the wider group. If we don’t do this, there tends to be an assumption that everyone will be involved in everything and this leads to lots of unnecessary meetings, and very slow decision-making.