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How IT leaders can empower teams to become decision-makers

Bob Kantor | May 7, 2013
Most managers want their team members to be more proactive when it comes to making decisions.

Then there are decisions that relate to branches, where you can give people much more latitude. And then there are decisions that are like leaves, which you really don't even need to know about.

Decisions that are at the branch level, you probably want to know about, but you don't need to approve. Trunk decisions, you need to know about and approve, but you might not need a lot of time to deliberate or address. Decisions on the root level are often the decisions you need to make yourself, or in which you need to be deeply involved in deliberation.

The Impact of Different 'Levels' of Decisions

This is a simple way to look at the kinds of decisions that each of your folks has an opportunity to make, based upon the level of impact of the decision. The other consideration is the ease with which such decisions can be revised, or even reversed.

Decisions that are at the level of leaves are generally quite revisable, because their impact is relatively minor. Branches, where you want to know about them but you don't need to approve them, typically are also revisable or reversible.

Examples would be a program design decision or a functional position taken in an internal meeting. Most decisions like these are made internally working with peers. If you were to find out about them within a couple of days, and if you had any issue or concerns about such a decision, it wouldn't be difficult to reconvene the group involved and to re-explore and maybe even reverse the decision.

Contrast that with when your folks are working outside of the IT organization, perhaps with senior people in a business unit. Here, if you learn of a decision a several days later that you are concerned about, reversing that would be more difficult or challenging based upon the strength of the relationship, or because of any follow up actions that the business unit might have already taken.

Looking at examples like these, we could say that internal decisions, unless they commit significant resources irreversibly, would be branch-level decisions. Internal decisions that commit significant resources that are not reversible, say a vendor contract, would be trunk-level decisions.

Decisions or positions taken outside of the organization with other key stakeholders would also be trunk level. And long-term contracts, major purchases, commitments to strategy, would be examples of root-type decisions that you would want to reserve for yourself.

Determing a Decision Approval, Notification Policy

When it comes to branch-level decisions, though you don't need to approve, you do need to know about them at the time that they are made, and your staff needs ensure that you know about them. This is a critical follow up point.


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