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Defer Decision Making to the Expert



Deferring decision making to the expert means being able to question whether the highest-ranking team member or the one with the most experience should have the final say in a particular decision. This approach to decision-making flies in the face of traditional organisational hierarchy. However, substantial and compelling evidence suggests that in many critical decision-making situations, the outcome is suboptimal because teams blindly accept that rank always trumps expertise. For example, research has shown that nurses often know better about medicine dosage for patients than doctors because they spend much more time with patients (and sometimes secretly override their doctor’s dosage prescriptions to prevent harm done to patients). Teams need to have space to work out who the expert is in any given situation. This “real-time expert” then needs to have the final say in the team’s decision, not the team leader or director. Mindfulness needs to permeate these interactions at multiple levels. As with the promotion of equanimity strong leaders need to learn to be comfortable to deferring the decisions to the expert in the room and in building trust and confidence in those people.


Organisations pay good money for expertise and then ignore, or don’t ask for input, from those experts. In the special forces, small teams are created in which each individual is an expert in their field and therefore all have equal ranking. Organisations should consider how to create special crack teams that are able to function autonomously and be higher performing. 

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