Making powerful decisions from the edge

August 31, 2005

Power to the Edge is a fascinating manifesto from the US Department of Defence on how the structure of their organisation needs to change in the coming years to better meet the challenges of a dynamic, politically loaded and loosely coupled world.

Power to the edge is about changing the way individuals, organizations, and systems relate to one another and work. Power to the edge involves the empowerment of individuals at the edge of an organization (where the organization interacts with its operating environment to have an impact or effect on that environment) or, in the case of systems, edge devices. Empowerment involves expanding access to information and the elimination of unnecessary constraints. For example, empowerment involves providing access to available information and expertise and the elimination of procedural constraints previously needed to deconflict elements of the force in the absence of quality information.

Empowering people at the edge to make decisions is great, but (as they explain) the boundaries on appropriate decision making need to be set. These boundaries are social and self-inflicted rather than technically or structurally constrained. The organisation structure may have checks & balances on decision making, but it is usually too late when these take effect.

During my Organisational Behaviour MBA course I found that Vroom and Jago have done some interesting work to help managers decide how a particular decision should be made within their organisation. Changing their flowchart language slightly yields a useful starting point for decision boundaries at the edge of the high performance teams.

Note: Originally posted to my Synop blog on March 23, 2004.