Alexis Monville (en)

Hierarchy and Decision Making

Erin Meyer covers how cultural differences in leadership styles create unexpected misunderstandings [Being the Boss in Brussels, Boston, and Beijing of the last issue of Harvard Business Review].

Looking at how people behave towards hierarchy is not enough to understand what kind of leadership style they will expect. A second dimension needs to be taken into account: attitude towards decision making.

Coming from France, I was making a simplistic association of hierarchy with the top-down decision making and was puzzled by the Japanese who were clearly experts in getting to a consensus while they were still hierarchical.

Of course, generalizing the expected behavior for an entire country is not fine grained enough, and you could expect different behavior from people of those countries.

The key is to understand that hierarchy and decision making are 2 different dimensions to discuss when you are building the team agreement on how you work. And when you are working with teams that are made with team members coming from all over the world, this is key to the success of the team.

For example, my understanding of Self-organization is egalitarian and consensual, and it’s for me the opposite of the top-down and hierarchical approach. The managers and team members, involved in a transformation towards a self-organization model, could struggle with defining their roles, especially if they are more comfortable in the 3 other quadrants.

Do you have your team agreements written down?






2 responses to “Hierarchy and Decision Making”

  1. Heather Marks Avatar

    I always enjoy your thought-provoking posts, Alexis. This model highlights some of the many challenges of leading global teams. To amswer your question, my best experiences with global teams have included written norms that were treated as living documents for reference and discussion. As a leader, it has always been helpful to also have an open mindset about these cultural differences as sources of conflict, so it can be dealt with in a “how do we figure this out and move forward” way instead of making the assumption that everyone is coming from the same place.

    1. Alexis Avatar

      Thank you for the feedback Heather!
      And thank you for pointing that team agreements are living documents!