Decentralization: Clarity or Chaos?

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A centralized system just seems so organized!  It's easy to report on, easy to track down issues, easy to know who to blame.  Decentralized system just seem so chaotic!  Who is in charge here?  How do I know we're being efficient?

Why are decentralized systems for much more effective than centralized systems?  What can you do leverage decentralization if you are working in a centralized environment?

Consider this story told by Yuval Noah Harari.  Gorbachov went to London to learn more about capitalism.  He didn’t see any bread lines and asked to talk to the person in charge of bread production, so he could learn how they are doing it.  The Londoners scratched their heads and said “no one is in charge of bread". 

Traditional corporations are largely a centralized system.  Need a project manager?  Go ask the centralized PMO.  Need a tester?  Go ask the QA manager.  Need to get a project funded?  Well you get the picture.

How can us common-folk affect the system to shift toward decentralization?

Boycott the centralized services in your company.  
Can you do without a project manager, or handle project management tasks within your team?  What about services that you are forced to use in order to access company resources?  The less you rely on resources outside your team, the more productive (and less frustrated) your team will be.

Make centralized services frictionless.
If you are a centralized service, think about what you can do to allow people to self-serve.  Is there a queue waiting for your services?  Are you putting limits on team production?   For example, suppose you run an Agile Coaching Center of Excellence and teams are waitlisted for coaches.  Can you put self service information online so that teams can coach themselves?  Can you coach a member on each team, allowing you to stretch further.  And ultimately can you distribute coaches throughout the organization so they're time is prioritized by the people who need them?

We're curious to hear what has worked for you with decentralization.  Post a comment!