Minimizing the Scope and Scale of Decisions

Decisions, to a large extent, create natural risk for the individuals making them. A common strategy for many leaders is to minimize this risk and the need to personally extend themselves through explicit decision-making. Instead, these leaders seek to 'engineer' outcomes through a variety of mechanisms. In some cases, the engineered outcome is equivalent to an explicit decision by the leader. But in many cases, the ability to secure explicit decisions from formal leadership is an eventual requirement for true progress.

The reality in many public sector organizations is that decisions can reach a certain level of importance or impact that they simply won't be made by their leadership for professional, political, and personal reasons. Every decision, in the private and public sector, professionally and personally, requires the acceptance of a certain level of risk and often the cashing in of some level of goodwill. The larger the decision, the more risk and the more expense of goodwill and political capital.

The ability to successfully secure formal decisions from public sector leaders is frequently a result of minimizing the scope, scale, and ultimately the risk of those decisions. Decision scope and scale is most easily reduced by creating more frequent decision points focused on smaller scale issues or options consistent with the overall objective. Smaller scale decision points are also a natural result and benefit of efforts that are successfully segmented. An organizational leader for example may refuse to sign-off on a complete re-organization but over time sign-off on the same re-organization in a series of multiple smaller segments.

The number of options presented also represents an important factor in securing formal decisions. More options often result in decision 'paralysis' whereby leadership or other governance mechanisms such as committees are simply overwhelmed by the information they need to process and comprehend in order to make a sound choice. In most cases, the ideal approach is to fully vet options before presentation to leadership for decision making. Ideally the number of options for leadership to consider is limited to two or three. By vetting options thoroughly and reducing their number, the risk of decision 'paralysis' is reduced.