Home > Boyd, Culture, Decision Making, Leadership, Organization > The Culture of Decentralized Decision Making

The Culture of Decentralized Decision Making

Starbuck has an interesting post on his Wings Over Iraq blog talking about issues with implementing decentralized decision making in the U.S. Army.  I offered my two cents in the comments:

You won’t find the answer in doctrine, training, leadership, or any other of the DOTMLPF domains. This is a cultural issue. Army culture does not support decentralized decision making, primarily because of our concept of the commander’s role as a chess player rather than a leader (Boyd captured this well in his examination of Command and Control vs. Leadership and Assessment).

This cultural dynamic is highly influenced by another cultural value: Soldiers do not want to accomplish the mission, and therefore cannot be trusted. This is perhaps best represented by the slogan “Mission First, People Always.” Operating from this assumption, commanders cannot trust subordinates and therefore must assume the role of compliance enforcer. In contrast, under the decentralized model, commanders are leaders, and leaders align the purpose of subordinates with organizational goals (mission first=people first), thereby generating trust.

Until we change this culture which assumes the false dichotomy between the goals of the people and the goals of the organization, we will never be able to have decentralized decision making.

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