Saturday, July 18, 2015

How to Delegate Decision Making in an Agile Environment?

Decision power is knowledge-based, wisdom-driven, and character-oriented. It needs to practice at all level of organization in order to adapt to the increasing speed of changes.

One of the most important tasks for management is to make decisions. However, in most of the organizations, managers often make “gut feeling” decisions, lack of clear structure, process or information to get them effectively. So how to practice democracy to driven down decision making in an Agile environment? What about Agile strategic up-front, big-picture planning? This is where business goals and how they interrelate are agreed upon? And how to make integration of these goals with higher level processes? It is normal though by no means essential to have strategy and policy decided "centrally and high up, but how about tactical and operational level decisions? To put simply, how to have the right people with the right information to make the right decision at the right time?

Framing the question: The key decision factor is how you frame the issue (to be decided on), another factor needing more attention is WHO makes the decision. The big “WHY” as the framing question is in the rigorous pursuit of its answers. One has to realize context, motivation, structure, and longevity. No one word is more powerful than "WHY" in pursuit of vision and solution to the problems. Define and clarify the issue - does it warrant action? Next define if the matter urgent, important or both. Does your decision-making process include opportunities? Opportunities need to be identified as well and you need to know they fit with your strategy, be them growth, cost focus, market development strategies. While occasionally tactical decisions at the project level require coordination with strategic objectives of senior management, PMs, and CM practitioners are usually in the best position to make effective and timely decisions. Apart from this, most if not all operational decisions could be made by the people "on the ground" provided there is an adequate communications network so that the viewpoints that need to be taken into consideration are found and taken into consideration.

Agile decision-making framework strikes the balance between “PUSH” & “PULL”: Agile frameworks talk about pushing the form, pulling the content or pushing the what, pulling the how. Some even talk about pushing the why, pulling the what and how. So the how as close to the practitioners is a given. And then how much less can be pushed and how much more can be pulled depends on how much of a learning organization you have, time frames, etc. Whether you use a push or a pull approach to get the knowledge from where it exists to where it is needed is a choice. Admittedly that doesn't entirely solve the problem, because "the knowledge that you need to know the what, how, why etc." in decision making is also important and without this, nobody would know when to push or pull. This type of knowledge is typically regarded as 'in-depth knowledge of the decision making process' and typically resides close to or within the people who enact the process, as these are the people who have best opportunity to learn that knowledge, and if the people are learning for themselves they will be building the knowledge of the process and thus know better than most in order to make effective decisions.

Whether it is appropriate to drive down decision making in an Agile environment depends on determining what to do and how to do it. 1) 'how to do it' first. The usefulness of agile teams is that they provide a means for several domain experts to collaborate in order to do something, with a lot of coordination by mutual adjustment as 'something' reveals itself. No-one is able to set out exactly what to do at the start. To some extent everyone has to figure it out as they go, using their domain knowledge and expertise to make certain level decisions. 2) The 'what to do' covers strategic direction and coordination with projects or events outside the team's scope or awareness. Strategic direction is increasingly being conveyed through goals, intent or something similar. You might not always be able to clearly convey the strategic goals or their intent so there’s a certain amount of need for interventions to clarify them. There will almost always be over-arching strategy and policy decisions and guidelines driven from the top level, but the goal of having the team own as much of the decision process as possible should be about eliminating outside interference at all levels whenever possible, and helping the team to own the hopefully few constraints that are driven from outside the team, with the goals to make timely decision with adaptation of changes.

Either at the individual level or organizational level; either at the top of organizational hierarchy or front line level: Decision Power is a mind-power; it guides what to select from available choices, how to accommodate constraints, how to avoid distractions, and where to show firmness and flexibility. Decision power is knowledge-based, wisdom-driven, and character-oriented. It needs to practice at all level of organization in order to adapt to the increasing speed of changes, complexity, and uncertainty of modern businesses.


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