Issue No. 272 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting says enough with hogging all the fun at your shop! To engage your team, you must become a decision-maker organization. Here’s my review of Dennis Bakke’s latest book, out this month. Plus, this reminder: check out my Management Buckets website with dozens of resources and downloadable worksheets for your staff meetings.
Gut Check for Decision Makers
Dennis Bakke has a gut check for you.
The bestselling author of Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job, Bakke has some counter-intuitive counsel for you. Maybe, just maybe, you should push decision-making farther down into your organization because the people closest to the situation are the best informed and have the most at stake.
Bakke, the co-founder of Imagine Schools and the former president/CEO and co-founder of AES (27,000 people in 27 countries, a Fortune 200 global power company) admits: “Early on, I would sometimes ask others for advice, but I would make the final decision. Isn’t that what leaders are supposed to do?”
He adds, “I soon realized that the more decisions I made, the less engaged others became, and the less ownership they had in the results."
"The problem was me.”
“The problem was me” is not a common tweet from the boardroom or the lunchroom. So in Bakke’s second book, published this month, he leverages the leadership fable genre to recommend a management solution in very, very practical terms. The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization One Decision at a Time is dangerous reading—because it may dramatically change your culture.
The action explodes in the first paragraph. Tom and Jim, new partners of a medical device company, dash to the manufacturing floor to inspect a critical piece of equipment. “The machine wasn’t just broken. It seemed to have been obliterated.”
Whether you’re in manufacturing or ministry, we all have days like this. Some of us thrive on chaos, others immediately surf online job listings. But you’ll be shocked at how Tom and Jim address their next steps—arguing over and then gulping and gutting it out as they agree on a new approach to decision-making. It’s a page-turner and it’s a culture-changer.
Bakke preaches a radical approach to decision-making. He says that in a decision-making company:
• the leader chooses someone to make a key decision
• the decision-maker seeks advice (including from the leader) to gather information
• the final decision is made not by the leader, but by the chosen decision-maker.
He believes that all of us can make good decisions. “So this story is not just for people who currently lead organizations. It’s for managers at any level who want to unlock the full potential of the people around them.”
The story, if you’re gutsy enough to read it, will convince you that “decision-making is simply the best way in the world to develop people.”
First, read the graphic slides on pages 200-211. They summarize the heart of a decision-making organization and highlight our current problems with decision-making; the results of those problems; and articulate the truth that people [made in the image of God] are “unique, creative thinkers, capable of learning, and up for a challenge.”
The summary slides (also available online) describe “The Decision Maker Process” in detail, how to choose a decision-maker (proximity, perspective, experience, wisdom), and the advice process. “In a decision-making culture, the decision-maker makes the final call but must ask for advice. Deciding who to get advice from can influence a successful outcome.”
These back-of-the-book pages also include the benefits of the advice process with this wisdom: “Everyone becomes more engaged. People feel more ownership when their advice is sought.” (Preach it!)
So…what would happen if your shop became a decision-making organization? What would happen if you created a “joy at work” culture where others had the fun of making decisions? Are you gutsy enough to at least buy the book and delegate your reading (along with a Starbucks card) to a key team member?
To order this book from Amazon, click on the graphic below for The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization One Decision at a Time, by Dennis Bakke.
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) Bakke writes that accountability is key. “After the decision is made, the decision-maker follows through by communicating and measuring the results of the decision.” On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 is excellent), how would you rate the accountability culture in our organization?
2) The author says that “many organizations seek to control behavior through top-down leadership that enforces procedures and rules. But people aren’t machines.” What’s the down-side of “top-down” organizations, departments and teams?
No-Hogging Cultures! - Insights from Mastering the Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Nonprofit
Speaking of your workplace culture, one of the big ideas in Chapter 8, The Culture Bucket, in my book, Mastering the Management Buckets, is to invite those who don’t live your core values (including managers who hog the decision-making) to exit.
Here’s the Culture Bucket core competency: “We strive to create a corporate culture with core values that are crystal clear. We yearn for a God-honoring workplace where grace and trust are alive and well. Because we are human we will always have relational conflicts, so we are zealots about resolving conflict early. We invite those who won’t live out our values to exit. We experience true joy at work.”
ECFA GOVERNANCE BLOG. Share this link with colleagues and friends who serve on nonprofit boards. My latest blog is "Board Input Versus Board Output."