Maximizing every 15-minute block of time is critical to the success of a business owner. If business owners and leaders managed their time and energy as closely as they did the balance sheet, there would be less burnout and improved mental health.

More importantly, additional time could be focussed on the critical things in the business — and in life — that drive long-term success, like working to build a sustainable culture and ensuring you arrive on time to the next family event.

Too often, business owners place too much on their own shoulders and do not empower other leaders to make decisions.

Most companies have used a decision tree, or flowchart, to determine “when” a decision needs to be made within a business. Instead, a great way to empower others, and to remove undo burden on an owner, is to determine “who” makes certain types of decisions.

This is where “Tree Decisions” comes into play.

Identifying Leaf, Branch, Trunk, & Root Decisions

To segment the four types of decisions that are made within the business, visualize your business as a tree (see corresponding graphic). In this model, there are four types of decisions: Leaf, Branch, Trunk, and Root.

Leaf Decisions: When you pick a leaf off a tree, does it faze the tree? Of course not.

Leaf decisions are those that if made incorrectly, and the leaf dies, would not harm the business. These decisions should be able to be made and acted upon by a front-line lead, supervisor, or manager without having to be reported up the chain.

In a mail shop, this could be using a different type of No. 10 envelope if stock depletes, or it could be whether to move one job ahead of another.

Branch Decisions: It is more noticeable when a branch is missing, but the tree will still thrive.

These decisions should be made by a manager, but what makes them different from leaf decisions is that when a decision is made and acted upon, it is reported either daily, weekly, monthly, etc. to leadership depending upon how critical the decision is to an operation.

The most common type of branch decision we see owners involved in are digging into the weeds of a small- to medium sized customer proposal. That’s a no-no. The sales team should have the guidelines and autonomy to make those decisions.

Trunk Decisions: Now if significant damage occurs to the trunk of the tree, bad outcomes can occur. Therefore, here is where the owner or senior leadership team should become involved.

The front-line manager should make a decision but speak to senior leader(s) before acting so the owner can provide clarity, or different options. Note, the decision is still in the manager’s hands, but there is a checkpoint in place with the owner to ensure nothing terrible occurs.

Root Decisions: Here is where the decision stays with the owner, and that is non-negotiable. If you kill a main root or enough smaller roots, you can kill the tree. Decisions that have a severe financial impact, change the culture, or impact safety are some of the most critical root decisions.

How To Implement Tree Decisions

For one month, keep a running tally of all the decisions made by the owner or senior leaders. Also track how much time was spent on the decision and how many people were involved.

Determine which decisions should have been made without senior leaders, and how critical those decisions are to the business. This will enable you identify and categorize the leaf, branch, and trunk decisions.

The business owner should write down five or six root decisions that should reside at that level.

With all your types of decisions categorized, place them into the graphic provided and share throughout your culture. It will take 45-60 days for the concept to stick with the team.

You will also find that in the gray areas, there will be some team laughter and goofing off like, “Well, that was a twig decision, not a leaf or branch.”

Find joy in the process with your team, and take back the 20-25 extra hours per month that we find business owners save themselves when implementing this methodology.

Bruce Gresham of Applied Vision Works can be contacted at

This article originally appeared in the March/April, 2022 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.