Steve Fenton

Decision making classifications

Decision Maturity Model

The pyramid of good organisational decision making is quite well known these days, as is the inverted-pyramid of command and control organisations. However, it is an interesting exploration to attempt to categorise the rough stages that you will find along the scale from “inverted” to “righted”. Some organisations don’t make it all the way.

Decision scale

There are five general classifications for where an organisation is, in terms of their maturity in distributed decisions. These buckets can be used to classify the typical response to a decision.

  1. Surprised
  2. Informed
  3. Consulted
  4. Influential
  5. Autonomous


This is where you hear it in the papers, or off-hand during your lunch break, or when someone accidentally reveals a decision with a classic slip of the tongue. Information about decisions is accidental – as if the impact of the decision below the C-Suite hasn’t even been considered.


This is where decisions are deliberately communicated, but after they are concrete. The decision making process is over, but people are told the final answer. This represents better communication around the same old decision making process. At least people don’t spend their time in constant shock and awe.


This is where the people doing the work are consulted about a decision. It is important not to confuse genuine consultation with after-the-fact “consultation”, which is actually just a manipulative communication strategy that is loosely based on the belief that if people feel involved, they will be more likely to buy the outcome. Your organisation is consultative if the consultation affects the outcome.


This is where the people doing the work are tightly involved in the decision making, but they can’t act without authority. In these cases they submit proposals to be approved elsewhere in the chain of command. The decisions will be influenced by experts at the work, but not timely due to administrative delay in approval.


This is where the team can react to the situation quickly, making informed decisions and implementing them rapidly.


In order for the transition along this maturity scale from “Surprised” to “Autonomous” to be successful, clarity must increase linearly; the business goals and values are typically 100% opaque in a command and control organisation, and they need to become common knowledge in order for decisions to be well aligned as people executing the work take on more decision making responsibility.

So what?

Take some time to understand where your organisation sits on this decision making scale and you’ll be rewarded by lower stress levels. Once you can name the beast, you may be able to tame it – and you’ll be less frustrated if you know what to expect. You will also find some success moving the organisation between two neighbouring classifications (for example Consulted to Influential) rather than trying to make a larger leap (for example Informed to Autonomous).

Written by Steve Fenton on