Mark Bonchek Talks Doctrine and Decision-Making

Mark Bonchek describes how organizations can use decision principles to empower employees to take action that is both timely and aligned with the organization's principles.


Leaders face a very difficult challenge today. They have organizations that are more networked, they’re facing consumers that are more connected and empowered, their operating environments are more complex, they have to respond more quickly to changes that are happening all around them, and they simply can’t control every variable and operate the way they used to. So, at the same time you can’t just decentralize everything and hope for the best. You need your organization to be aligned, you need to be operating in a way that’s consistent, but at the same time you have to empower them and give them autonomy to be able to take action and to move responsively and be resilient and adaptive. So, how do you achieve both alignment and autonomy? A lot of leaders are wrestling with this, and the way to achieve this is with something that the military calls doctrine, or others call design principles. These are fundamentally ways of giving people guidance on how to take effective action Without having to go back to some central resource for approval or permission. And the key of what makes good decision principle, or design principle, or doctrine, is that, the way the military describes it, it's authoritative but requires judgement in application. So it’s not just a mission and it’s not just values, it’s more specific than that, but it’s also not rules or policies or procedures. So it isn’t telling you what to do, but it’s also not just kind of providing some general outlines of what would be nice to do. It’s giving you what you need to take action.