Command and Control. RIP

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:127th_Command_and_Control_Squadron_-_Distributed_Common_Ground_System.jpg
Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes I think that someone is planting ideas in my brain which I write about and then discover that the following day/week there is a report on exactly what I was talking about.  Case in point:  decentralized decision making.

Forrester released a report on September 22th entitled “Embrace Decentralized Decision Making, But Keep Planning Holistic“.  That was the same day that I talked about a flattened structure in a daily note.  Wow, talk about synchronicity.  Now, there are some differences between my note and the Forrester report.  My note was free and the Forrester report is $395 USD if you want to buy it.  (Mine’s a better deal.)

The Forrester report talks about the relationship between planning and decision making and how setting up the right plan leads to better decision making.  The idea is that you have periodic reviews of the portfolio and on a monthly basis examine the opportunities and risk.

It’s not a simple “set it and forget it” type of strategy, you need to be actively involved in the monitoring of the opportunities.  What we know as a traditional PMO isn’t capable of responding quickly enough to changes.  In my organization, the PMO function meets with everyone once a month.  Yup, once a month, and if something needs to be discussed and a decision made that likely won’t be until the following month.

In the fast-changing world we live in something may not be relevant in a month or two.  Or, as is more likely the case, something needs to be done within the month.  Forrester talked about “command and control reporting”.

So, I had to look up what was meant by “command and control reporting“.  It’s all based on the idea that all decisions and all “power” is centralized at the top of the organizational structure.  The Change Leader’s Network has an interesting article on  “How Command and Control as a Change Leadership Style Causes Transformational Change Efforts to Fail” that I encourage you to read.

There is no doubt that centralized planning is a good idea.  No one doubts that although who is involved in the planning may be up for debate. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all decisions have to be delegated upwards.  If the plan is in place, and the guidance in place on how to make decisions, the decision should be pushed as far down the organization as possible.

When I was with Accenture and we were rewriting their case management system we had a number of Case Managers as part of the team and they made decisions on behalf of the entire organization.  Have the people who are going to be using the system on a daily basis help create the system.  It only makes sense.  Bigger decisions were escalated upwards, but for the most part, decisions were made by the case managers on the team.

The bigger the organization, the more diverse it is, the harder it is for a central group to make decisions that are relevant to all of the organization’s disparate parts.  There needs to be solid communication in place, solid principles, and guidance, but then let the various parts fend for themselves.  With the monthly strategic assessments talked about by Forrester, nothing should be able to get terribly out of alignment before it can be corrected and brought back or even halted.

You can’t control where every drop of rain falls.

Leave a Reply