Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fierce Conversations VI--The Decision Tree

Last but not least! Continuing summary/analysis of Susan Scott's Fierce Conversations.

The Decision Tree

The Decision Tree consists of four categories of decisions. All are described from the perspective of the employee/"direct report":
Leaf Decisions: Make the decision. Act on it. Do not report the action you took.

Branch Decisions: Make the decision. Act on it. Report the action you took. (Reporting may be required daily, weekly, or monthly.)

Trunk Decisions: Make the decision. Report your decision before you take action.

Root Decisions: Make the decision jointly, with input from many people. These are the decisions that, if poorly made and implemented, could cause major harm to the organization.
p. 121: Scott's recommendation:
Explain the Decision Tree to your direct reports. Ask each of them to pay attention over the next thirty days to all of the decisions that fall within their responsibilities and to categorize them as leaf, branch, trunk, or root. Review their conclusions and reach consensus about where each kind of decision falls on the Decision Tree. Remind everyone that the goal is to move more and more decisions out to the leaf level. This is the leadership-development path. [After] this agreement, adhere to the boundaries and agreements. . . . [I]f someone comes to you for help in making a decision that falls within the trunk category, say, "Come back to me when you've made your decision. Then we'll talk."
--I have a sense I need to initiate this kind of discussion, decision, and discipline with those with whom I work.

A few comments/ideas/notes:

  1. I'm not sure I have direct reports. I have, more, people I am mentoring, people who are my apprentices. Somehow, in these circumstances, I sense the lines of responsibility and authority are rather different than what Scott is describing. I'm not completely sure how they differ. I need to think this through. But let me try to think through some of the ways her "Leadership Development" may differ from my idea of apprenticeship and mentoring.

    One key difference: I sense the kind of leadership development Scott is referring to is far more "hands off," than the kind of apprenticeship/mentoring I'm referring to. Mentoring includes decisions at all kinds of levels, and, moment-by-moment, the level may shift--from strategic to tactical and, possibly, down to the very detailed, low-level "stylistic."

    Mentorship is closer to "coaching," or serving as a sensei in a karate dojo (school). --The student realizes s/he wants and needs the input of his or her master/sensei at any point and in any area in which the master/sensei believes s/he needs improvement. The student welcomes the master/sensei's "intrusion" if or when the master/sensei says something.

  2. Scott says the goal of the Decision Tree is to "move more and more decisions out to the leaf level." I'm thinking her emphasis in this statement is misplaced. The goal has less to do with movement of decision-making than it has to do with building skills and trust. Although, perhaps, I am confusing the clarity of the Decision Tree graphic--which is (kind of) all about decisions--where we believe they ought to be made and/or who we believe ought to make them--with the processes by which we might entrust more and more individual members of our staff--"leaves"--to make decisions on their own.
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