Decide Fast, Learn Fast, Win Fast


Ready to Unleash Your Transformation? Focus on Decision Making.

How many time has this happened to you? Its Monday morning, and you just logged into your weekly staff meeting when you get an urgent call from senior management. They want you to call them immediately, join their conference call or maybe even come to their office to discuss why your company cannot move faster with your projects, change, strategy execution, technology, process improvements, etc.? At least 3 times this month? It happens everyday, and it happened again today. The pace of your change needs to be faster. It will happen again tomorrow! So, what do you do? For starters, I propose you start with your decision making.

A company can only move as fast as they make decisions. The effectiveness of decision making is like the speedometer for your project, change initiative, strategic endeavor, etc. If decisions are slow, your transformation will be slow. If decisions are fast, your company will be able to move forward faster. Decisions create actions that translate into tasks for people in the company to complete. No decisions, no actions, no tasks, no completion.

DecideFastLearnFastWinFastIn Leading Successful Change, authors Shea & Solomon propose to change an organization you need to change behavior. They elaborate further to describe 8 levers of change, one of which they describe as decision allocation. Simply put, think of this as “who decides what, and where?” There are models available to help you structure the decision making process. I personally prefer the DACI model: Driver, Approvers, Contributors, Informed because it is simple and emphasizes accountability in the role of Driver to make the decision happen.

Before we go rushing off to “just make more decisions, faster”, lets consider some drivers behind slower decision making. When companies lack action, they are indecisive. Indecision can be caused for may reasons including but not limited to: not enough information, too much information, and unclear roles and responsibilities. Said another way, people hesitate to make decisions because they fear the decision will not have the required quality demanded by the company.

This balance of speed vs quality can be challenging. Consider the classic 2×2 above to assist with guiding actions to improve your decision making. If you find yourself with fast decision making, but low quality, focus on learning faster from your low quality decisions. If you find yourself with high quality decisions but too much time to make them, focus on deciding faster by embracing more risk.

Make no mistake, if you make decisions faster you improve your company’s ability to move forward faster. Have you heard the old saying “Win Fast, Fail Fast“? While it is very applicable in this context, I prefer “Decide Fast, Learn Fast, Win Fast”. If you make decisions faster, and they truly lack the quality you desire, engage your learning capability and dial your learnings back into a new decision to ultimately win faster.

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Strategic decisions, when can you trust your gut?


Strategic decisions, when can you trust your gut? – McKinsey Quarterly – Strategy – Strategic Thinking.

So, what does your obituary say? What is written on your tombstone? What did you die of?

If you are a project manager type you are pretty familiar with contingency planning, risk planning, and risk management. To compel the attention of your audience to your change priorities, try crystalizing these traditional PM concepts into the openning questions.

The above link will take you to an article regarding executive decision making by a Nobel laureate, Daniel Kahneman, and a psychologist, Gary Klein. Interestingly, these two esteemed thinkers disagree on several aspects of decision making. One concept they agree on is “premortem” or contemplating the failure of an endeavor (project or company or decision) as a part of the decision making process. I couldn’t agree more.

As change leaders, we must keep ourselves and others grounded by contemplating the possible failure of an endeavor. One of my favorite and most frequent planning activities is to ask myself to write an obituay for the endeavor you are leading. “Here lies project X, having died of …”. This is a very powerful exercise to sharply define what really matters or the causes of death for your meeting, project, company, or even your career.

I agree with Kahneman and Klein on conducting premortem and I have found asking the “tombstone” or “obituary” question forces clarity on what really needs to change within a company, division, department, project, and even career.

Try it and let me know how it works for you.