While automation and big data create tremendous potential to reshape our world and create new possibilities, the rapid pace at which information and insights are coming at businesses requires them to act quickly to stay ahead of the game.
“To succeed in this world, organisations need to make decisions faster, and to do this, they need to become more agile,” said Angela Rixon, director of digital transformation at CGI, an IT and business consulting firm in the UK.
Organisations are feeling increasing pressure to make prompt decisions, but they worry that attempting to make decisions more quickly may result in poor decisions, said Jean-Francois Cousin, a speaker, author, and executive coach based in Bangkok, Thailand. And, while many organisations are aware of the importance of making faster choices, they can still get bogged down in decision-making. In some cases, for example, senior executives nurture a culture in which mistakes are punished, causing employees to “cover all of their bases” and making the decision come too late, Cousin said.
He and Rixon agree that by challenging your administrative culture and working across your organisation, you can implement strategies to enable faster decision-making in the future. They offer these tips and ideas:
Set a deadline. Cousin said that it is important to set a deadline for making a choice based on “how much time the decision to be made is worth for the business”. Those decisions with more value to the business may take longer, he said. At the same time, acknowledge that there is no perfect decision. There are so many angles from which to examine matters that Cousin said businesses can get trapped in trying to find that perfect decision. “The game is really about finding a ‘good enough’ solution,” he said.
Challenge the prevailing culture. Large organisations often have silos with command and control leadership, relying on senior leaders having enough bandwidth and information to make the right decision quickly, according to Rixon. She said that businesses should consider pushing decision-making down to those who are closest to the customer. Leaders should set direction, empowering employees to more rapidly make and act on decisions aligned to the strategy, she said.
Improve collaboration across your organisation. Rixon advises enhancing co-operation and decision-making across silos through the creation of communities and collaboration tools. Break decision-making down into small group meetings, and at the same time, engage a wider group of employees across the organisation, she said. “Hear new ideas by those who are involved with the area or problem on a day-to-day basis,” Rixon said. Employees want to feel that they have been heard, according to Cousin. This will also improve buy-in once a decision is made, he said, allowing for more effective implementation.
Avoid analysis-paralysis. Identify what is most important to analyse and what is secondary. “In decision-making, we have to choose our battles,” said Cousin. In some respects, this involves having courage. Discuss your fears regarding the worst-case scenario (if a decision fails) and dig deeper into them. That will open up possibilities for new and better thinking, Cousin said.
Ensure employees know that it is OK to make a mistake. When senior executives create an environment in which mistakes are punished, as Cousin mentioned, employees tend to take longer to make decisions. If those at the top can say, “It’s OK, sometimes we make a bad decision,” and then unite efforts across departments at solving any collateral damage, “that company will have a better chance at greatness,” Cousin said. “In those companies where we’re less afraid of making a mistake because we see them as lessons, we have a better chance of getting stronger, smarter, and better.”
— Lea Hart is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.