While no-decision managers never make decisions themselves, they are always on the lookout for someone else to take decisions for them. This is one of the most sophisticated tactics they use to avoid decision-making, which I call ‘deviated delegation’ with its four different variations.
The first principle no-decision managers adopt deviating delegation is NEVER to specifically ask anyone to take a decision in their place. From their point of view this of course is very logical. It is inconceivable that a manager in any organisation asks someone else to take a decision for them. They cannot just ask:
“Hey, I am a no-decision manager and never take decisions; can you take this decision in my place?”
or even more simply
“Could you decide for me?”
They have to manoeuvre the situation in such a way that the targeted manager takes the initiative and jumps in to take the decision in place of the no-decision manager. It is here that no-decision managers must develop sophisticated methods to ensure that someone makes a decision, but not them.
Deviated Upwards Delegation
For a no-decision manager, the most obvious person to take a decision in their place is the boss. This I have called ‘deviated upward delegation’ and is clearly the most convenient, elegant solution for them, because the boss automatically takes direct responsibility for the decision. Each individual no-decision manager needs to find a process to persuade their boss to take as many decisions as possible in their place. They have to convince, manipulate, push and cajole their boss into deciding for them, using the second principle in ‘deviated delegation,’ without the boss being aware of what they are actually doing.
For important decisions, even for normal managers, it is quite usual to discuss the different alternatives with the boss before a decision is made. Many bosses will help managers make them and some will also decide these important decisions instead of delegating them to their subordinates. So, for no-decision managers, it is not so much the important decisions that are difficult, it is the others that do not need the input of their boss.
No-decision managers are intelligent enough to know that the boss will never take their simple, trivial, daily decisions all managers should make on their own. So they have developed the concept of the ‘deemed decision’: give information on an upcoming decision to the boss and watch his or her reaction.
A positive reaction from the boss is deemed to be a clear instruction to decide. A negative one is a deemed instruction not to take this decision. But (and this is the essence of a ‘deemed decision’), no reaction to a pending simple or trivial decision is considered to be a decision made directly by the boss to the no-decision manager.
As already discussed in previous articles no-decision managers, as part of their survival strategy, are close to their bosses and experts in managing them. It is important here, that they do not give their bosses too much petty information on what is going on in their department, while using the deemed decision concept, so that that they exceed the information limit their boss has. They need to know their boss’s level of information overload. If ever they exceed it, their problems will become serious and the boss is likely say something like:
“I don’t need all this detailed information you are giving me. Just go ahead and decide for yourself. If you have an important decision to make, let me know but only after you have decided.”
Now, no-decision managers are in serious trouble. By breaking the boss’s information overload barrier while using the deemed decision concept, they lose an important source of decision-making. They will have to settle for getting fewer decisions made, which will increase the frustration levels of their subordinates, which in turn increases the risk of the secret getting out that they are no-decision managers, or they will have to ‘deviate delegation’ to someone else to get their decisions made for them.
Deviated Diagonal Delegation
‘Deviated diagonal delegation’ is next best option for no-decision managers, if their boss does not make a decision for them. This involves persuading a colleague of their boss or someone in headquarters to take a decision in their place. This option is easiest to manoeuvre when working in an organisation where managers have multiple bosses, i.e. in a matrix organisation with ‘dotted line’ responsibilities or in an organisation with a prolific headquarter staff.
Deviated Sideways Delegation
‘Deviated sideways delegation’ is another way no-decision managers can avoid decisions. Here, they persuade a colleague at the same hierarchical level to take a decision in their place. If they have a common project it might be possible for another manager to take the lead and make the key decisions. This situation however rarely comes up. In senior management no-decision managers find this option almost impossible, in middle management it is easier.
Deviated Downward Delegation
Finally no-decision managers can use ‘deviated downward delegation’ to get decisions made by their subordinates. Normally delegation involves three conscious actions by a manager:
- giving authority to the subordinate to make a decision
- keeping full responsibility for whatever decision is made
- monitoring and helping the subordinate through the decision-making process.
Normal managers see delegation as a way to get things done more quickly and consider it a motivational tool to help develop the skills of their subordinates. Bosses give subordinates a decision to make but keep the accountability of the outcome.
No-decision managers do none of this. To ‘deviate delegation’ to a subordinate, they have three conscious non-actions:
- they wait for the subordinate to take the initiative. It is always the subordinate, never the no-decision manager, who takes the initiative to make a decision normally made by the boss.
- they renounce all responsibility for the decision, unless their boss considers it to be an excellent one, in which case they personally take the credit.
- they monitor nothing and never help a subordinate.
These are the fundamentals of ‘deviated downward delegation’. Subordinates just take the decision on their own, without any intervention from their no-decision boss – any decision they want, in any way they want – whenever it suits them. But only subordinates who have decided to work in a positive manner with their no-decision boss will take these decisions. These subordinates will be described in future articles.
Some decisions then, are made, some of the time in an organisation or department managed by a no-decision manager. Only those made by the no-decision manager’s boss are the ones which follow the strategy laid down by the boss, the others made by colleagues, people in headquarters or subordinates may not follow the organisation’s strategy. Some decisions however are still never made.