Delegation Board 2.0

One of the popular practices of Management 3.0 is the use of Delegation Boards. In a delegation board, you describe which delegation level is applicable for a key decision area (KDA). You can find more information on delegation boards on this page. This blog post is not about explaining the theoretical practice, this blog post examines why at a certain moment, delegation levels just won’t work anymore!

Let me quickly refresh your memory, a delegation board makes use of the seven levels of delegation. These seven levels are:

  1. Tell, the manager decides.
  2. Sell, the manager decides and tries to sell their decision to the team.
  3. Consult, the manager asks input from the team before the manager makes the decision.
  4. Agree, the manager and team agree together on the decision.
  5. Advice, the team asks input from the manager before they make the decision.
  6. Inquire, the team makes the decision, and try to sell this decision to the manager.
  7. Delegate, the team makes the decision. If necessary they will inform the manager.

I always explain to people that a delegation board is something between control givers and control takers. In most organizations, control givers are the leads, managers, etc. and the control takers are the teams or individuals. The more traditional description could also be managers and staff.

We, Happy Melly One, practice what we preach. One of the brands we support is Management 3.0. To do this, we make use of our own delegation board. In the past, when Jurgen Appelo was part of the team, his job title was Emperor-God-Overlord. No need to say who the control giver was ;). We had one delegation board, life was simple. For example, “Company Purpose” was at delegation level 1, Tell, Jurgen was the person who would decide on this and tell it to the team.

When Jurgen decided to focus on new projects, such as Mind Settlers and his new book, we had to reorganize ourselves as a team. The team selected me to become the new CEO, and to me, the title CEO is the abbreviation for Chief Empowering Officer. I believe in teams where everyone is responsible for management, not just one person.

Earlier this year we had a retreat in Dublin. One of the to-do items was setting up a new delegation board. We reviewed the old board, removed some key decision areas and added some new ones. So the natural next step was to play the delegation poker game to gain insight into everyone’s ideas about the right delegation level per KDA.

The first KDA was Signing contracts. What kind of delegation level should we apply? That will be 1, 2 or 3 I said. This was because as a CEO, I am the only person registered at the Chamber of Commerce, and therefore the only person who is legally allowed to sign contracts. We agreed it should be a 3. I will consult the team and in the end, make the decision.

The second KDA was Spending money (>= 500 euro). We all selected our preferred delegation poker card and played it. Different cards were played: 3 – Consult, 4 – Agree and 6 – Inquire. We discussed the reasons for people proposing different levels. At one moment someone said, Ralph should be involved in the decision. “Stop,” I said, “Why me? I am not the manager in this team, I am not the control giver. We all are.” However, in this case, who actually is the control giver? Who is making the decisions in the first three delegation levels if you are not the manager? “I don’t see the need for me to be the manager, so not me,” I said. We agreed after some discussion, it should be the team.

So, the control giver was the whole team, however, the control taker also was the whole team. Hey, now, but, ehh, that is weird! How can the team empower the team? How can you empower yourself? Should it be a team member? Is the control giver the team and the control taker is a team member? Well yes, that would work, we all agreed.

With level 1, the team would decide and inform the team members. Eh? That is also weird… How can we as a team decide on something together and then inform single team members about that decision? And what about level 3? in our case, we would consult the team (that is everyone) and in the next step make the decision as a team (that is again everyone). OMG, it’s complicated!

The delegation levels didn’t work as well for us is what we then decided. It was time for a coffee break. This was giving us headaches.

Coffee always helps. We took a step back and first discussed the different delegation levels. We decided to remove a few of them and to redefine the description of the ones that were left. We ended up with the following levels and descriptions:

  1. Tell – Everyone on the team has to fully agree. In other words consensus.
  2. Agree – If there are no objections from anyone, it is OK. Consent decision making.
  3. Advice – Team member has to ask advice from other team members.
  4. Inquire – Team member has to inform other team members about the outcome.
  5. Delegate – Team member has full delegation and can decide on their own.

Why did we use the description Tell for the first level and not Everyone or Full Team? Simple, we don’t have delegation cards that say “Team Has To Agree” :).

With this new level description and also fewer levels, we played the game again. It worked! We ended up with the following delegation board:

As you see, we still have some open KDA’s and questions and being an organization with co-owners, that also creates some interesting cases on the delegation board. However, after coming up with this, we decided it was time to celebrate! Not all problems need to be solved in one day.

Have you encountered a situation like this? How did you resolve it? We would love to hear your experiences.

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