Delegating desion making
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2008 08:04:23 -0700 (PDT)
 It is my experience that small groups can work really well to delegate
decision making. The key is communication and opportunity.  Often only a
small set of people care about or know about a particular issue.  It can be
a huge waste of large group time to have 3-4 people doing all the
participating, while everyone else watches and yawns. For example, I once
watched a large group  spend two hours of its time trying to figure out the
garden planting plan. Only a handful of people cared and several actually
left after the first hour. Clearly the handful of gardeners should have just
met and made the plan.   If you do not have established teams to delegate
to, set up a decision making meeting and invite all those who are interested
to attend. The facilitator can easily establish interest by simply asking
something like, It seems only a handful of people are working on this, would
it be ok to move this to a separate meeting?   Give the meeting clear
boundaries,  we are deciding the planting plan for garden, and encourage
people to come, or contribute ideas to a designated lead person. But also
make sure that people know this particular meeting WILL decide the issue and
it will be done. 

It is important that decision making agendas of small groups get  well
communicated as it is a trust breaker to have something you care about
decided at a meeting you didn't know about. 

Some groups are plagued with people with control issues, and those folks
often complain that they have to go to too many meetings when things get
decentralized. This is not a good reason not to let small groups decide

Sometimes it can be appropriate to have a small group come up with a
proposal for the large group to work with. Often however, this does not work
well and the hard work of the folks who care gets nit-picked to death,
sometimes causing those who care to bail with bad feelings about group
meetings. Another idea is creating a process so that if a small group
decision gets made which is widely objected to, say by 5 or more people, it
is added to the next large group meeting by petition.  

There are boundaries to what kinds of decisions are large group or small
group which will show up when a small group goes astray of the large groups
interests. This is a normal part of the  learning curve and over time you
figure out what works best between large and small groups.

Rob Sandelin
Snohomish County, WA

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