Stop Making Decisions!
Quick SummaryHundreds of decisions are made in the workplace every single day. If just a fraction of these are pushed down by managers to employees, engagement levels will skyrocket...
The Decision-Making Matrix is the first comprehensive analysis of the link between the work environment and the impact this has on effective decision-making. It uses four degrees of scale to measure the effectiveness of the decision-making process: employee ability, employee control, employee ownership, and employee empowerment.
The first step in creating an environment conducive to excellent decision-making is employee ability. Do your employees have the capability, skills, resources, training, and support they need to be able to make effective decisions?
This is often the biggest hurdle that managers encounter. It seems like it takes so much effort just to get employees “ready” to make decisions on their own that it’s probably faster and more efficient if we did it ourselves. Whilst it is the easy option, it’s also the option that leads to disengagement amongst employees. It’s the option that results in employees feeling that decisions are thrust upon them rather than being involved in the process.
The degree of employee empowerment is a direct reflection of the level of decision-making a manager is willing to give an employee. How much discretion is the employee allowed to have? Is the employee restricted to making decisions only on how long to spend in the bathroom, or is the manager allowing the employee to decide on matters that have a financial impact on the business?
Managers need to be wary that empowering employees only marginally will create only a marginal result. Take a risk and see what happens. Trust your employees to make big decisions that have an effect on all aspects of the working environment: customer service, teamwork, business direction. The outcome of an empowered workforce is employees who take pride in their work, employees who put thought into the consequences of their actions, employees who are so involved that they feel the business is their own. This is an immensely powerful environment to build and it truly rests with this empowerment phase. Don’t be superficial in the responsibilities you give your employees; be generous and let them run wild. Sure, bad decisions will be made, and these can easily be reigned in. Now have a think about all the brilliant decisions that can also be made and imagine how far the business will be propelled as a result.
How controlling are you as a manager? Are you constantly breathing down your employees’ necks? Do they see you and get a fright? Do they talk to you with nerves in their tone and body language, or are they calm, together, and themselves? Relinquish some of this control and pass it on to your employees because it is employee control that is the next part of a world-class decision-making environment.
Empowering your employees to make decisions is useless if you also don’t permit them to control the process. If you see them headed for failure and you know from your previous experience that the decision they’ve made has only one outcome and that outcome is a crash, let it happen. I can almost hear you cry “WHAT!” as you read this, but just let it happen. People by nature need to make mistakes to learn. If they don’t make the mistake today, they’re going to make it eventually anyway, so let it happen. Whilst we’ve all heard a million times the line “people learn from their mistakes”, what we don’t hear is that people learn even more from having to fix their mistakes. So let them happen.
Employees will see the gift of empowerment as fake and insincere if it's not accompanied by employee control as well.
Who’s ultimately responsible for the outcome of the decision? Is it you? Is it your manager? Is it the team? No, it’s the employee who’s been empowered and placed in control of the decision, and he or she needs to know it. This is where the fourth element of decision-making comes into play - employee ownership.
An employee who feels that accountability will be passed onto someone else if the decision turns sour will result in half-hearted decisions. An employee who has the impression that he/she will not be questioned over a decision gone badly will result in unnecessarily risky decisions. So if you’re going to push decisions down, and this article overwhelmingly suggests you do so, then also hand over ownership as well.
It’s the combination of these four elements, employee ability, employee empowerment, employee control, and employee ownership, which create the Decision-Making Matrix. And it’s achieving a high degree in each of these areas that results in a place in the top right quadrant, the quadrant where fabulous decisions are made. Any other combination results in decisions that are either flawed, floppy, or frustrated, and landing in one of these quadrants can make a genuinely good idea a disastrous one.
Employee engagement is critical to organisational success. Studies around the world are consistently highlighting the vast differences in profit between organisations with high levels of engagement and those where engagement is low. Pushing decisions down is a golden way, a big step, and a sure-fire way of getting to the top. But unless you’re also creating the right framework and environment for this to occur, then you’re only halfway there.
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