Regardless of your level in the organization, you make decisions daily at work. You make decisions for your own tasks within your own sphere of responsibility. You make decisions based on recommendations from your team, where it’s your job to have the final say. You put together briefings and recommendations, and influence those higher up the organization for decisions that you know you can’t make alone.
How much time have you wasted trying to find the right person to take a decision? Or got someone to finally decide on what you should do next only to have it overturned by their boss?
All this decision-making, prep work and negotiating is time consuming, especially if you don’t get the process right first time.
What if you could speed up the process of getting decisions made? You can, if you streamline the process and add a framework that helps the right people get what they need to take the decision.
The Benefits of Delegating Decision Making
If you delegate down, you are removing senior managers from the decision making process. That might sound risky, but if you set clear parameters then you aren’t asking people to operate outside of their sphere of influence. In other words, you are simply asking them to do their jobs fully and not push small decisions up the line to people who have other things to do.
Of course, managers can always be consulted if a decision-maker feels as if they are out of their depth or they want a second opinion. But when you empower your team to make decisions within boundaries, they can get on and do it.
This makes taking decisions faster, and means that senior managers in the business are only involved where their level of authority is required – they aren’t spending time being involved in lower level decision making.
It also works the other way: team managers aren’t excessively involved in decision making where they actually have very little influence. By identifying who is in the right position to make the final decision you can route the decision (and the relevant supporting information) to them from the beginning, saving everyone time.
The Decisions to Delegate
The best decisions to push through a process are those where you can define authority levels. A good example, and one that might informally be in use already in your business, is financial sign off.
Take these examples:
- The project team can sign off financial decisions up to the limit of $500 as long as it relates to an element of the project and does not take the overall work package over budget.
- The project manager can authorize spending of up to $5000 as long as it does not take the project budget +/- 10%.
- A department manager can approve spending of up to 10% of their annual budget on any one purchase order.
- A division manager can authorise expenditure of up to $100k.
- The board needs to approve any business case over $1m.
You can see how setting levels of approval pushes the decision making down the hierarchy.
This also works where there isn’t money involved, for example decisions related to resourcing or the selection of technology. It’s also helpful for project and program approval, for example, a team manager can approve projects that only affect their team, but the board has to approve projects that will affect more than 3 divisions.
Identify the types of decision that could be structured in this way in your business and create a table that shows the different levels (the parameters and boundaries for the decision-makers). Then add in names, committees or groups who have authority to make decisions at that level.
You can also add in the documents required for the decision to be taken, so that the team that requires the decision knows exactly what is expected. For some decisions you won’t need a full business case, but that might be required for others at a different level, for example.
When the Process doesn’t Work
You are not going to be able to put every single business decision through the process, although you can try. I know that there will be one-off requests that won’t neatly fit into a box and they will need to go through the levels of command until they have been adequately discussed by everyone concerned.
For these decisions you can use tools like iMindQ to help you record all the relevant factors for the decision, document who is going to be affected and then ensure that you’ve got the right people in the room to make the call.
In fact, you can use iMindQ for any decision – mindmapping can help within the process framework as well. You can use it for identifying the factors contributing to the decision and for recording the outcome and rationale.
What’s the Right Level for Decision Making?
You’ll have to decide this based on your organization set up. It will take a little while to make sure that you’ve got the levels right, but once it is done you can start benefiting from pushing the decision to the right person or committee straightaway, without having to wonder who is going to make the call on whether you can go ahead and buy that new productivity tool or whatever.
You might actually find that levels of authority are specified in your job description. Most people put their job descriptions away and don’t refer to them again. While you don’t want to be that person who only does work if it is on the list of their responsibilities in their job description it can be a useful starting point when trying to work out what level of decision you are personally able to take.
Have you tried this method for speeding up decision making? Let us know in the comments section below. If you haven’t tried, give it a go with purchasing decisions and see how much of a difference it makes to the process.
About the author
Elizabeth Harrin is the author and award-winning blogger behind A Girl’s Guide To Project Management. Get her suggestions for being more productive at work on her blog.