A key component of agile thinking is decentralized decision making. The need to appeal to higher or centralized authority can bring delays and decisions made by people who are not closest to the process and/or customers.
Two recent articles caught my eye because they highlight the importance of local decision making and do not involve software development. The first explains a recent McDonald’s restaurant decision and the second discusses the strategy of Japanese discount retailer Don Quixote. McDonalds is allowing franchise managers in the U.S. to simplify operations by deciding which items to sell, while Don Quixote allows local store managers to decide what to sell and how to sell it. Every store looks different. I’ve been to Don Quixote, albeit not in Japan. The store was in Hawaii and catered to tourists; it was packed with cheap but colorful Hawaiian souvenirs. I went in looking for Japanese Kit Kat bars and left with bags of gifts and a love of Don Quixote.
A local autonomy strategy can backfire, but it’s usually a good idea. If you’re working with an agile mindset, you’ll be having retrospectives to review performance and gathering customer feedback. It will be clear if the strategy needs adjustment. Agile thinking works in any industry that can benefit from being fast and flexible to customer needs.
Is there a way to make decisions in your organization happen faster and closer to the customer?