Setting Your Organization Up for Autonomous Decision Making

Organizations can get complex fast. Managing a few people can seem easy and then that few becomes many, sapping your time for strategic thought. You need to empower your team, increase your span of control and make sure the wheels don't fall off.

Fundamentally, well-run organizations that have healthy spans of control and strong operational excellence share the ability to clearly cascade priorities from the top of the organization down to the bottom. Poorly run organizations are typically chaotic with several people competing to achieve the same objective or spinning their wheels failing to do any really productive work.

So, what do those "well-run" organizations do? They push down decision making through a variety of increasingly abstract tools such that ICs can reliably make decisions autonomously. What are those tools?

  1. Mission
  2. Core Work
  3. Quarterly Priorities
  4. Team Priorities
  5. Individual Goals

If you have successfully built out all five of these decision making tools, the employee now has a complete framework in which to make any decision in the company. When encountering a decision, the Employee will first look to their own goals. Asking: "What decision will best enable me to achieve my goals?"

If the decision is somehow out of the scope of their individual goals, they can next look to team priorities, asking: "What is my team trying to achieve and what decision best aligns with the team's priorities?"

If the decision is outside of the Team's Priorities, the employee needs to look at the company's stated Quarterly Priorities, asking "What is the most important thing for the organization to achieve and what decision best aligns with that priority?"

Next, you have the Core Work, which is a deep exploration of the Mission defining the "how" to achieve the Mission. The employee should be able to decided a course of action based purely on the stated "how" of the core work.

Finally, I've talked a bit about the Mission previously, but if all else fails, the employee should turn to the mission of the organization to make a decision.

If the employee follows this decision making framework, and is still unable to make a decision, than either the question at hand is out of scope for the organization and the decision is inconsequential or some priority is conflicting with another priority causing friction in decision making.

More often than not, the Employee will stay at the bottom most of this decision framework, but by have a complete decision making toolset you enable individuals in the organization the ability to consistently make the best decision for the overall organization, decreasing management cost and increasing potential span of control allowing for a flatter, more nimble, organization.

Trent Krupp

VP of Operations at Triplebyte. Founded an agency in my 20's, sold it to Hired and became employee 5. Recruited for Atomic (VC), Credit Sesame and MakerSights. Helped the founders of recruitment tech startups Shift.org, Terminal and Beacon in the early days.

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