Chris Zook, a Partner at Bain, had an interesting post on the HBR Blog Network. In part he discussed themes from the recent Davos Forum. One of the themes was:
"that while events are unfolding in the world at an accelerating pace, increasingly complex institutions are less and less able to deal with them."
This is a theme that I have written about frequently, including here and here. Events are unfolding at an accelerated pace because information about the events is being disseminated at a much faster pace over the Internet. Secondly, information about an event is being covered by more and more sources, both offical and recognized and informal. For example, Twitter probably breaks more top news stories than any news agency or television network. Large complex organizations such as governments and Fortune 500 companies are not currently designed for immediate reaction and response but rather prefer a deliberate, consensus oriented approach.
The question, of course, is why large organizations cannot respond more quickly. Zook proposes that companies need simpler strategies and more transparency. Simpler strategies presumably reduce the number of variables to consider in making a decision and transparency provides more people with the necessary and correct information. This is good advice but I would add one more concept.
If the strategy is clear (through simplicity) and people have good information, then authority can be delegated down to a much lower level. Lower level staff may not execute their authority but they have the option to do so. I always remember the story of the sniper in Afghanistan who had Bin Laden in his sights during the Clinton administration, but by the time Washington approved the shot Bin Laden had left the scene. Delegation of authority permits faster reaction times by the people on scene dealing directly with the problem.