Management 3.0 in decentralising decision making

Shifting competitive landscapes and increasingly sophisticated marketplaces, demand quicker answers to consumer needs. For businesses, this means rapid decision making is now a strategic imperative.

Management 3.0 is a recent approach to agile leadership that encourages the decentralisation of decision making with a view to empowering teams and improving efficiency.

Jurgen Appelo, author of Management 3.0, suggests traditional models of central control are inefficient as one person simply can’t have all the information that’s needed to make good decisions throughout an organisation.  

Additionally, in an environment where decision making is based on centralisation and specialisation, unnecessary time is spent waiting for decisions from managers and subject matter experts.

This decentralised model, however, takes advantage of collective intelligence across the organisation, and – where appropriate – distributes responsibility for decisions.

Management 3.0 offers many ways to achieve this employee engagement, for the purpose of this blog I’m going to dive into one of the practices for balancing control.


Management 3.0: delegation boards to empowering teams

The delegation board is a Management 3.0 tool that allows agile managers to clarify the assignment of responsibilities within their team.

It outlines key decision areas and assigns a level of authority to each of these.

Note: In traditional top-down management each area would be the responsibility of the manager; conversely, the delegation board looks to share this responsibility within the team.

To identify an appropriate level of authority for each key decision area, the manager must consider a set of factors including:

  • Level of trust in the team
  • Skill level of team members
  • How dangerous a wrong decision could be for the organisation (impact)


Management 3.0: Seven levels of delegation

Delegation is often seen as a simple decision – either you delegate something, or you don’t.

However, Management 3.0 identifies seven levels of delegation – ranging from a manager making a decision without consultation or explanation, to handing absolute responsibility for that decision to their team.

The seven levels of delegation are framed from the manager’s perspective:

Level One – I will tell them… make a decision for the team. You may choose to explain your motivation but a discussion about your decision is neither desired or assumed.

Level Two – I will try and sell to them…  make a decision and try to convince the team that you made the right choice.

Level Three – I will consult and then decide…  ask for input from the team and consider this before making a decision.

Level Four – We will agree together…  have a discussion with the team, make decision as a group.

Level Five – I will advise but they will decide…  offer your opinion with the aim of influencing a decision made by the team.

Level Six – I will enquire after they’ve made a decision…  ask them to decide then and then convince you of the wisdom of their decision.

Level Seven – Delegate…  I leave the decision to the team.


Management 3.0:  Delegation boards to decentralise decision

One of the main barriers to effective delegation is a lack of clarity regarding the types of decisions that can be delegated. For example, a team leader may consider their employees’ work hours as a ‘level 1’ decision, expecting the team to manage the timing of their lunch breaks themselves.

Unless it’s clear whether this is a level 5, 6 or 7 decision, the team won’t know whether their team leader requires visibility.

A delegation board aims to avoid this type of situation by increasing collective awareness about boundaries and responsibilities of decisions. It communicates the level of authority the team has and is an effective way to lead conversations about the flow of work between a manager and their team.

After a few conversations, the first version of a board may look like this:

Management 3.0 Delegation Board 1

The delegation board is dynamic and will change over time as competencies, trust and the degree of impact adjusts.

A manager should have regular conversations with their team to review the success and configuration of the delegation board, and reflect any changes on an updated version.

The next iteration of a board might resemble this:

Management 3.0 Delegation Board 2

Making incremental changes to the control of decision making is a useful approach when managing change of any magnitude.

Used effectively, a delegation board can be a powerful tool to support change within an organisation.

By improving visibility and awareness of decision making boundaries, managers and teams can begin to have deeper and ongoing conversations about how to create a successful model for decision making across their organisation.

I would like to hear your thoughts on how your team ensures the boundaries are clear with regards to decision making. Or, have you used a delegation board in your workplace and was it a success?

Learn more about Management 3.0.


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