From the Ask Tom mailbag:
My company went to a big seminar last week, so now, we are on a big kick to “drive decision making down to the lowest level.” As a manager, I am not supposed to answer my team members’ questions. I am supposed to say, “I don’t know, what do you think?” Sometimes, my team members don’t think.
This is a noble idea, but as with most noble ideas, as a manager, you still have to make a judgment. Which decisions are appropriate to drive down? Some are, some are not.
Decisions can be measured by understanding the Time Span of the goal. If a team member has a goal that is due in one week, that creates a Time Span of Discretion of one week. Most decisions like this will be related to the pace and quality of the work.
For example. If a team member is to produce 100 units in a week’s time, they should have the Time Span of Discretion to decide at any given time, if they are ahead or behind schedule. They should be able to decide if they can work on other projects during that time or if they have to put other work aside to complete the 100 units prior to the end of the week. If they run into a problem that they can solve and still get the 100 units produced according to schedule, then they should solve the problem. If solving that problem will take so much time that it jeopardizes the production schedule, then their manager should immediately be consulted so appropriate adjustments can be made.
The Time Span of Discretion is an accurate gauge to determine which decisions should be driven down and which should be reserved for the manager.