As many of you know, I’m a rabid fan of clarity (along with focus, discipline, and engagement, the foundational organizational behaviors that I address in The Outstanding Organization).
In many organizations, the opposite of clarity—ambiguity—is the productivity-sapping, chaos-producing norm. By trading ambiguity for clarity, organizations create work environments that result in better decisions, greater alignment toward common goals, higher levels of engagement, and lower labor and operating costs due to excessive clarification and rework.
Operating with clearly defined roles and responsibilities is one of the many areas I cite in my book as a key contributor to high levels of employee engagement and, by extension, outstanding business performance (p. 45). I’m not alone in raising this issue. At 1:40 in the below video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgHW5bQuzGI), you’ll hear Leah Haunz Johnson from the Corporate Executive Board’s Corporate Leadership Council echoing this need:
Yesterday my business coach, Michael Stratford, and I had a conversation about the various levels of involvement people play in a business and in providing value to customers (e.g., full- and part-time staff, subcontractors, investors, advisors, collaborators, and strategic partners), and the need to be extremely clear about each party’s role in decision making.
Michael shared a decision-making taxonomy that he learned from Carolyn Taylor (author of Walking the Talk), which struck a clarity-defining chord in me. The levels of decision-making authority are:
All parties benefit by being intentional and clearly communicating the level of decision making authority we’re operating from (which varies, depending on the decision to be made). Imagine a world with this level of clarity. No more wondering if you’re authorized to make a decision or not. No more irritation because someone made a decision they weren’t authorized to make. No more frustration with people who aren’t making decisions that are theirs to make simply because they didn’t know they had the authority to do so.
Eureka! I hope you’ll join me in practicing intentional decision making—both at work and in life. I invite you to share your results and lessons learned.