Is your organization highly centralized or highly decentralized?
Lean organizations are characterized by pushing decision-making to the “lowest” possible level. In the using the word “lowest”, I am just reflecting the hierarchy that exists in most organizations. What we’re really talking about here is ensuring that decision-making occurs where the work is actually happening. In order to enable this, the information also needs to be shared with the team(s) actually doing the work.
This is at odds with traditional work structures where people at the top were paid handsomely to have all the information and the peons were given such dumbed down tasks, that they didn’t have to do much thinking. Take a few minutes to study the history of industrialization. You may be surprised at what you uncover. Unfortunately, this “thinking” still influences the control structures of the average organization.
Even though in knowledge work, the “associate” is often a highly trained and educated individual (see Drucker), most organizations still create structures where all the important information is held at the top. You know, with Director X, VP Y or C-level exec Z. Nothing meaningful gets done without a decision being made by someone with a big title. Supposedly, those at the top are more informed and have more experience. Supposedly. The Taylorist mindset lives on; cloak and dagger style.
You can choose whether you want to work in organization like these. I made up my mind a few years ago that I wouldn’t except I was helping to the change that situation. You know why? I can’t stand to see so much human potential wasted.
Additionally, the delays introduced as a result of waiting for people at the top to make decisions impacts us economically (well except we’re a monopoly). Innovation is stifled, creativity pretty much killed. But someone still ends up with a fat bonus.
As a leader, how much decision making is centralized in you? How much decision-making is decentralized on your team? How much information is given to individuals and teams that enables them to actually make decisions? How many centralized boards and bodies does your organization have?
The greater the centralization the lesser the ability for the organization to scale and the more human potential is being wasted. The waste of human potential is such a sorry thing.