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By Nader Talai • June 26, 2018

Move from Centralised Control To Decentralised Control

Move from Centralised Control to Decentralised Control that will make your life better.

Centralised Control

Our organisations are structured like factories with centralised decision making and detailed instructions about the work that needs doing. This structure is suitable for stable market that change slowly and the thinking that believes that people doing the work don't know how best to do it. Any change that is required during the execution of the instructions can flow up and then down, we have time to do this. 


Centralised Control To Decentralised Control



Investments are based on business cases that promise outcomes based on the creation of one or more organisational capability with scope and cost known in advance. Decisions are made based on the benefits based on the known details.

Our thinking in this set up is that the scope and cost are knowable in advance and if we build it, they'll come. Our job as the organisation is to build what we know the customer wants and they will use our services as soon as we've built them. This works with the slow rate of market change, limited customer choice and the lock-in that each organisation created to stop customers from moving.

Follow the plan

These structures are highly bureaucratic slow to make decision and result in staff whose learnt behaviour is that of a follower. When the plan does not work we put that down to lack of analysis and we add more process to ensure a more detailed analysis is carried out to stop repeat failure.

Why we need a different structure?

We live in the Agility Era meaning that there is a high rate of change and customer choice. It is no longer about lock-in but about interoperability, open APIs and creating value add to our customers by building services that are centred around them and acknowledging that we don't truly know what the customers want but we know how to learn what the customers value through forming a hypothesis that these capabilities may attract new customers and engage the existing ones better.

Our business cases are not certainty they are a hypothesis describing the organisational capability and the likely benefits. We want a way of working that enables us to invalidate our hypothesis quickly with minimal investment.

Decentralised Control

The organisational structures required is that of a network of services where the business context is shared and known at each of the nodes of the network and they understand what the objective is. The node will then take ownership, accountability and decision making responsibility to achieve the objective which is always aligned with the organisational objective. The network will adapt as it learns more through taking action and adapting. We require transparency and high level of discipline each member of a node knows what to do, how to do it and holds the self  and others accountable.

Our thinking in this set up is that we can not know everything in advance and can not rely on every decision to be made centrally we are at the edge of our knowledge and we need organisational structure that allows us to navigate through uncertainty learn from every step adapt fast based on the learning and move towards the objective. We have minimal constraints in this set up. The objective is to reduce the time to learning (feedback) and increase the number of feedback loop (small increments) learn from the market and adapt as you go along.

Achieve the goal adapt the plan

These structures are highly adaptive fast to learn and make decision and result in staff whose learnt behaviour is that of a leader. 

Business Agility needs flexibility of the network structure which exhibit the following


Alignment with the strategy 

Value Streams

 Network of empowered teams with clear goals and accountability

Decentralised Decision Making

Know the strategy and the business context and are enabled and empowered to make decisions 


The intent is shared and known and leadership is encouraged, practised and exhibited at all levels


Evolving architectures and systems with relentless improvement and automation, continuous integration, continuous deployment on demand release, automated tests

How does the decentralised control make your life better?

With leaders at all levels and teams holding themselves responsible and accountable with built in automation your job becomes that of providing the direction, occasional course correction, challenging and growing your teams.

How to start

Set the direction, define your strategic themes

Define one Value Stream the members of this value stream have all the tools and skills to fulfil customer demand. There work is aligned with customer demand. For most organisations that are set up as Centralised Control this will be a team that cuts across organisational functions and will feel wrong and uncomfortable. 

Provide the business context of what the strategy is, why it matters so the Value Stream can deliver against the strategy. 

Provide support

While the team is going through this transition they will need support and guidance to help them through the journey and remind them when they are reverting to what they know and feels comfortable. Taking, ownership, accountability and decision making will feel uncomfortable and unless your journey is supported there is a high likelihood of reverting back.




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