In MBM, we’ve learned from free societies that owners bear the consequences of their actions (both positive and negative). We translate that idea into the organization by establishing responsibilities, and then holding employees accountable for their responsibilities. Notice that these statements make no guarantee that one will have all the decision rights s/he needs to accomplish his/her responsibilities.
It could be that one has all the decision rights, none of the decision rights or partial decision rights. This is done deliberately. Below are several reasons why someone may have responsibility without having all the decision rights necessary to execute on those responsibilities:
- Knowledge: It could be the individual doesn’t have the best knowledge. By having someone else holding the decision right, the two will have to meet and exchange knowledge.
- Skill: Sometimes the responsible party isn’t good at making certain types of decisions, so it’s a deliberate way to make sure someone with better judgment is making the final call.
- Perspective: It could be there needs to be a broader or different perspective to make the best decision. For instance, if I’m working on a research paper that is going organization-wide, it’s probably best for someone who is familiar with the entire organization to have the final say on when and how it is released.
- Customer Focus: In certain cases, not having decision rights encourages one to treat the decision maker more like a customer. I think this is a bit like the president having a speech writer. The speech writer doesn’t have final say in what the president says, and that’s a good thing. The speech writer has to treat the president like a customer: talk to him to understand the goal, stay closely connected with likes/dislikes and so forth.
- Challenge: It could be there are decisions that require a lot of challenge to make the best possible decision. For instance, supervisors do not have decision rights to change the base pay of direct reports – but they do have responsibility to ensure direct reports are getting base pay reviews. This is done deliberately to make sure that supervisors are getting lots of challenge around this very important decision.
I’m sure there may be other reasons why one may have responsibility without decision rights. This isn’t to say that this is always an ideal situation. There may instances where the person with responsibility has decision rights and it works quite well.
Regardless of the situation, we do not believe that one has to have decision rights in order to get things done. This is where our ideas about Principled EntrepreneurshipTM come into play. Out in free societies, successful entrepreneurs are not deterred by their lack of authority. Inside the organization, if one lacks decision rights, they have to be entrepreneurial, find the person with decision rights, and work to convince that person to use resources.
Have you been a situation where you had responsibility but not all the decision rights you needed? What did you learn from that situation?