Today’s business environment and the need for organizations to form multi-departmental/disciplinary teams requires a matrix process for management. As such, the order of the day becomes management by committee. The power and influence of individual professionals and managers are reduced so that they are required to gain the approval or buy-in of multiple stakeholders before they can proceed. While on the face of it, this seems like a perfect opportunity to introduce some good project management discipline to help facilitate effective decision making, unfortunately management by committee turns into a symptom that highlights various challenges that the organization faces. Some of the problems that result from this managerial practice include:
- Decisions take a long time to receive buy-in and approval
- Often the team has to agree to the least common denominator
- The loudest/whiniest team member wins the argument
While we could argue for or against the matrix decision making process versus the individual (empowered) one, the bottom line is that a case can be made that management by committee in and of itself is neither good nor bad for the organization. It is an approach that can be used effectively, or can turn into a “who’s who in the zoo” game where everyone is lost and nobody is accountable.
Organizations who have successful decision making practices that produce results frankly can not attribute their success to the fact that they have one decision maker who is the only person authorized to resolve conflicts and open doors. Successful organizations develop a detailed process that is tested and refined based on the corporate culture and market dynamics. However, what is even more important than that is the fact that great organizations understand that their decision making processes must evolve as their culture transforms and their practices mature. They understand that forcing everyone to participate in an outdated mode of governance and management will likely lead to failure.
The point that I am driving at here is simple as it is the very reminder that what has made us successful yesterday is not what will make us successful tomorrow. Once the leadership of the organization embraces this philosophy, the issue is transformed from one that is focused on the individual stakeholders to a more holistic approach in leading the organization through continual improvement.