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Domino by Nick Tasler

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17How to Break a Bottleneck

Not long ago, I was facilitating a decision workshop for the business technology department within a European bank. We were barely an hour into the session when it became abundantly clear that there was an even bigger problem we should be solving. The department head, Carol, explained how this team's biggest challenge was inspiring clear decisions from people two or three levels above them in the organizational hierarchy—people whom they had no authority over.

I had conducted numerous workshops for this company in the preceding years all aimed at helping these teams do their work more strategically and decisively. But a significant restructuring had taken place in the months leading up to this session. The parent company had been centralizing decision authority slowly but surely for years. Little by little, every year, the layers of middle management grew thinner and thinner, and more and more decisions were made at the home office thousands of miles away. At the time of this workshop, it suddenly became clear to us all that virtually no major decisions happened in this regional office anymore.

The good news is that I had been asked to help with this trend in other financial services companies, so I wasn't completely blindsided by it. This trend toward flattening and centralization has been happening all over the world in virtually every industry for the past 20 years or more. So they weren't the first ones to find themselves trying to align people ...

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