by Roy Saunderson | October 14, 2016
Recognition program managers are often challenged with running decentralized recognition programs. How do you effectively manage different companies or several business units doing their own thing with recognition? Like an arborist, who cultivates trees, you need to know the signs of growing healthy decentralized recognition programs. Below are 10 Ways to cultivate healthy decentralized recognition programs, just like a tree.

1. Must Have One Central Leader: Having a centralized strategy and programs, like a single leader trunk, gives stability and structure for the growth of your main program and for decentralized programs to learn from and grow out of.

2. Always Check Out the Trunk: If your strategy is damaged and not revived your decentralized programs won't flourish. Fix cracks in your core strategy and disseminate revisions out to business units to incorporate into their programs.

3. Provide Evidence of Yearly Growth: Like trees, decentralized recognition programs should produce yearly growth in the program usage reports as well as the qualitative perception of recognition effectiveness. Always be measuring.

4. Work On Any Bare Spots: The existing recognition programs should cover all of your employee groups. Don't let any gaps occur such as sales folks getting awards and incentive trips while their support staff receive no recognition at all. 

5. Watch For Any Wilting: Nourish existing programs with necessary education on the why and how of recognition. Reinforce recognition giving by everyone to everyone, with frequent communication messages through different channels.

6. Check Leaf Color, Shape and Size: Healthy leaves and fruit are a good sign of positive tree growth. Similarly, good recognition outputs, reach, and quality and effectiveness of all recognition initiatives are a good program indicator.

7. Prevent Any Insects or Disease: Always be checking to ensure there are no black marks or misuse of programs, rewards or recognition. Ensure all business rules are carefully followed and are countered by values based criteria as well.

8. Ensure No Dead or Broken Branches: Prune out programs that are not producing meaningful results. Look at the metrics regularly and work with managers to understand why a program is not working before discarding it.

9. Regularly Inspect Your Trees: Evaluate the progress and effectiveness of your programs. Call attention to a program's health before the problem becomes too serious. Conduct these inspections at least once a year and quarterly at best.

10. Protect Your Mature Trees: Good decentralized programs started up for good reasons -- usually because there was nothing else present. Avoid bringing in major changes without first considering the roots and history of program origins.

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is author of Giving the Real Recognition Way and is the Chief Learning Officer of Rideau's Recognition Management Institute, a consulting and training company which helps leaders and managers get recognition right. He can be reached at Also, check out the library of Real Recognition Radio shows.