Many Hands Light Work

A Paper On

Decentralised Management

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Decentralised Management

This paper outlines decentralised management arrangements in a free association of autonomous activities, where there is a board or top management committee ('the committee'), and a number of activity organising teams ('teams') that are delegated and empowered to run events.

The Committee assigns the team full authority to carry out delegated activities, subject only to accountability and review after the event.

The Committee remains responsible for all outcomes and takes top-level management action where needed - setting boundaries, mentoring, counselling, training, or requesting information and so on. Normally the Committee makes appointments in accordance with the advice of the existing team but in extraordinary circumstances (new team, team failure etc) could "hire and fire", within the bounds of fair treatment, wrongful dismissal, etc.

The Committee gives up its own immediate power to carry out delegated activities for two reasons: there would be no reason to delegate if the Committee could carry them out satisfactorily; and once having delegated an activity, the appropriate way of ensuring that it is carried out satisfactorily is by reporting and review, not by direct action.

As a result of an act of delegation, the team receives responsibility for that activity and the Committee is no longer directly responsible for it.

After an activity has been delegated it cannot be performed by the Committee, or delegated again by the Committee unless the first delegation is revoked.

The team are accountable for their decisions and must keep the Committee fully informed of results and issues, etc.

This decentralised decision-making model is the way our teams have always worked and it has worked very well.

To draw an analogy, centralised micro-management might work in a small retail business, but once you have separate departments it does not. Imagine if the bakery manager had to wait for approval from the store manager to take the bread out of the oven - the result is bound to be burnt bread and a browned-off baker.


Lance C
15 March 2012