Scenario 1: The Leadership Team/top Management Team is in high control mode. They feel they need to make many kinds of decisions and sanction/approve initiatives. They don’t trust people below much.
Scenario 2: The same as above, but they would not agree that they don’t trust! It is just ‘necessary’ to work like this. It’s a question of good governance. They don’t think trust is an issue.
Scenario 3: The same as 1, but they wish things were not like this! Too many things are pushed ‘up to them’ that should not be, so they have to react and accept. And they do.
Scenario 4: The Leadership Team/top Management Team is not in high control mode. They do not feel that they need to make all kinds of decisions and sanction/approve all initiatives. They trust people and let go of control quite a lot. If things are pushed up to them too much, they push back and ask people below to make that decision and reflect on why they felt compelled to send them that particular request to decide.
There are, of course, multiple scenarios other than these four, some above the extremes, some in the middle, some combinations.
What is crucial is to know which one is the one in operation. In my consulting practice as organization architect, the prominence of one or another does not bother me as much as the ignorance of which one is in place. Many people think that they know, but, in fact, they have created for themselves a scenario that has not been properly validated. Ever. There are unwritten rules around what it is ‘assumed that is required’, and nobody has asked, is this really, really, how it is?
A situation where I find myself very frequently, more frequent than just counting as anecdote, is the one where teams share a strong assumption that they need to ‘go up’ for permission all the time under the banner ‘this is how our culture works’. So they do. But ‘the top’, in reality, is not a nest of control freak people, at all. Their fault, clearly, is not to push back; they don’t have such a habit, so it has become normal. But they have even articulated ‘you don’t need to come for permission all the time’. However, in this scenario that I am referring to, people still ‘go up’. Why? It’s not permission, they are seeking. It is (a) reassurance and (b) praise. The latter they may not accept as true; in fact they may be offended to hear such a thing. But the reality is that they play the ‘good citizen’ game, go up, ‘ask for their invaluable input’, and acceptance, get the OK, and descend from the mountain full of beans. A successful trip. Until the next calendar day when the mountain is open for visitors again. Then, surely, they pilgrimage back to the summit with a brand new set of slides.
It takes some honesty on the table (and in the water supply of the company) and perhaps some guts, to stop and think; unbundle these dynamics and understand what is going on. But the effort is worth it. And it may end up saving one or two pilgrimages.