Tradeoffs of decision systems.

One dominant variable.

Delegation (autonomy) frees time and fosters ownership by moving authority near the action. It presumes interest, competence, and social ability. Without the right tools, this becomes abdication.

Mandate (control) makes a unilateral decision using the global perspective. It can harm motivation by ignoring local concerns. Becomes dictation when context is stripped from the orders.

Collaboration (cooperation) assesses options together to get commitment. It can be slower or more frustrating though. Becomes placation when decisions are avoided or require unanimity to avoid negative emotions.

Two dominant variables.

Negotiation (autonomy + cooperation) averages the options but harms inspiration and commitment.

Delineation (cooperation + control) tries to collaborate but falls back to mandate upon hangups. This is both faster and more informed, but hastineness kills future collaboration.

Deliberation (control + autonomy) networks decisions across the organization, but can potentially overvalue uninformed participants (like in voting).

Delineation works well in hard time constraints, but strategic decisions want more slow care, favoring deliberation.


  1. Robert W Keidel, Seeing Organizational Patterns: A New Theory and Language of Organizational Design (Washington, D.C.: Beard Books, 2005). (See notes.)