When sales goals aren’t being achieved, when customers are complaining about the availability of support, when production is falling behind demand, the standard answers are always the same—add personnel. The new resources are brought online and sales decline, customer service worsens, and production falls further behind. What is going on? It is the downward spike of the Change Curve and it can be explained by the Authority Triangle. There are three kinds of decisions and actions that can be made by an individual on the job.
- Do it
- Do it and then report it
- Recommend and ask before acting
The fully competent incumbent operates in category 1, Do it, 80% of the time. 15% of the time they act in category 2, but then report the action taken in time to reverse or modify the step taken. Only 5% of the time do they delay action until authorized to act.
For the new addition the authority triangle is reversed. 80% of the time the new addition is asking permission before acting. That consumes productive resources and thus reduces the total output of the unit.
Over time the Authority Triangle is rotated and eventually the new edition begins to add to capacity rather than consume it.
One of the things managers have to be concerned with is the rate of that rotation. If it is too slow, the new resource continues to be a burden rather than an asset. If the rotation is too fast, the new addition subjects the organization to undue risk—acting before they have the competence to do so.
The Authority Triangle is an important concept in evaluating new additions to the organization. Those turning the triangle too slowly or too quickly need to be weeded out, making room for the organization to try again to bring in a long-term productive member of the team.
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