Suppose your client at the last minute asks your painter to use different paint. Does the painter have to call the office, or have you empowered him or her to make that decision?

From file "046_rms" entitled "ways+means3.qxd" page 01
From file "046_rms" entitled "ways+means3.qxd" page 01

If you're an employee at Mark IV Builders, Bethesda, Md., you know which decisions you can make on your own and which ones you need to get approved. Posted on walls and in offices is the “Decision Tree,” which displays four types of decisions — leaf, branch, trunk, and root — and whether to take action (see illustration).

Taken from the book Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life, One Conversation at a Time, by Susan Scott, the tree concept was brought into the company by owner Mark Scott (no relation) and has been incorporated into the company culture. Says Andy Hannan, production manager, “This company is about growth and enrichment. The only way a company can grow is if people take on accountability.” By doing so, employees learn to identify which categories decisions and actions fall into, work toward professional development, and free management to concentrate on other responsibilities.

“We consider it college when you make a bad decision,” says Hannan. “Just like your parents, we don't want to pay for the same course twice.”