If the bad of your ideas isn’t getting regularly replaced by the good of other people’s ideas, you won’t notice… but it will suck.”
— Nate Vander Wilt #

With that, Nate beautifully summed up the value of teamwork and the essence of how we’ve begun to solve our points of failure.

Nate’s quote also points to the primary contributor to those failures—too much decision making and general responsibility was (technically, though unintentionally) centralized under me.

That said, there’s some strong exaggeration in Fritzy’s recently circulated rumor that my leadership style makes me Kim Jong-Il’s CSS nerd twin.

In truth, team-based decision-making has always been present in the way we work—perhaps it’s even been overdone. I can’t think of a single unilateral decision I’ve made since &yet’s first hires. In fact, for quite some time, practically every decision was discussed with the entire team. As we grew beyond four, I started taking decisions to a couple folks instead of everyone.

And yet—!—because I’d never officially delegated any organizational roles, ultimate decision authority in every aspect of our work fell to this Dear Leader.

Not good.

So… as a group, part of what we decided to do was make clear lines dividing up all responsibilities and authority.

We used a rubric Nathan taught us, which is apparently a commonly used one—one of our clients said they have used it in several organizations he’s been a part of. The rubric consists of five roles These might not be exactly right, but that’s fine—these work for us.

Decider
The decider bears the weight of leadership in the areas they’re assigned to. It’s up to them to choose who gets involved in a conversation about the decision. Ultimately, the decider chooses how that decision is made, what that choice is, and how it’s going to get carried out.

Consultant
Consultants have expertise or interest in the area and should be involved in the decision. They are invited into the decision process by the decider.

Implementer
Implementers don’t need to be involved in the decision, but they’re the ones doing the heavy lifting. It is possible for someone to have multiple roles in the process and there are some areas where we designated implementers as consultants, deciders, and validators.

Validator
Should be aware of most decisions and reserves the right to veto decisions made, primarily because of bigger-picture issues. Because I’m the decider for our direction as a company, I retained the role of validator in a decent number of areas.

Not involved
This role just makes it clear that with any area, there are always some folks on the team don’t have any formal part in the decision or the work getting done. On our team, this does not mean we are not interested in their opinion—particularly if they feel passionate about it—but it does mean that the decision doesn’t have to take their feedback into consideration very strongly.

Each of the above roles was divided across all the areas of responsibility in our organization, including: project selection, products, project management, internal communication, office, business process, sales and client relations, customer development, marketing, research, technical process, general HR, technical HR, QA, product service, and so on…

We’ve been using these now for a few months and we’re at the point of revisiting them to discuss how well we’re doing. (In fact—that’s part of why I’m writing this post.)

They do represent a significant change from the ad-hoc way decisions were made and thus far it’s been a challenge to stick by them 100%, but we’re getting farther down the road.