Organizations often respond to accelerating change with slower decision making. CEB’s study of 3,000 business leaders found that 63% of executive felt decision making was too slow. Making the right decision is not guaranteed by slow decision making practices.
Certainly the increased complexity decisions complexity leaders begs for careful analysis, however, this research study found that slow decision making was not related to in-depth analysis. Instead, the lack of speed was attributed to:
- Inattention to hand-offs between groups,
- Escalating low value decisions up the chain of command,
- Overly complex processes,
- Unbalanced metrics, and
- Faulty decision making delegation.
While this list looks daunting, there are two highly achievable solutions. First, a leader needs to evaluate what decisions should be made and at what level based on clear criteria or guardrails. Some questions that need to be asked include:
- Is it really necessary to have the upper management to approve all decisions?
- Can front line staff resolve issues within specified parameters?
- Is an agile and entrepreneurial culture consistent with a tedious decision review?
In many organizations the temptation to pass the buck up the chain of command thrives. While we espouse delegating to lower levels, delegating up the chain still flourishes. In one organization the CEO made decisions on hiring security guards extending the approval cycle to several months. By the time the hiring decision was made, the applicant had accepted another position. While this is an extreme example, it is smart to evaluate whether your organization employs a wise decision authorization practices.
Too often staff successfully delegates up the chain to their managers as a safety precaution absolving them of the responsibility for making a difficult decision. To stop the process, leaders can refuse to accept the role thrust on them by insisting any decision comes with a final recommendation backed by thoughtful analysis.
In addition, some mid-level managers expect to be consulted on every decision fearing that a risky precedent be set. Unfortunately, this means they are swamped with minor issues prohibiting them for handling significant concerns. The ability to set guidelines for common decisions not only frees up their time but also empowers their staff. Decision documentation by staff can quickly clarify the decision parameters enabling timely action. Decisions need to be made as close to the individuals impacted as possible.
Second, reassess and streamline current decision making practices. Is it best for decisions to be reviewed sequentially by level instead or can it be open for concurrent review? Would establishing a response timeline expedite decisions instead of letting something sit on a vacationing person’s desk? Can key players get involved in the process early so that their input is included from the start? Is there clear evidence that the current review process adds value? Layers of unnecessary protocol accumulate over time and must be updated or the organization will drown in bureaucracy.
While an actual decision merits the most attention, the decision making process must also be examined to ensure smart and timely decisions. Getting it right late may mean a lost opportunity, an incurred risk or a tarnished brand.
Key Words: Decision-making, Organization Change, Leadership, Communication
Advertisers use sound bites to capture attention and promote interest. Recently our leaders both political and non-political adopted the use of clever snippets that might be witty but they are not clear. In fact, they often produce confusion, rather than dispel it. A catchy phrase may entertain, but it rarely enlightens. As we all know from misreading email messages, words have multiple meanings that obscure intentions and plans.
Improve your Communication Skills
Every leader aspires to be a great communicator who gains acceptance, builds commitment and ensures stellar outcomes. To achieve this goal, however, leaders need to avoid seven derailing fallacies.
- Communication and promotion are not the same. Promotion’s goal is to excite emotion in the short term. Communications goal is to establish common ground and connect for the long-term.
- Information sharing is not communication. Communication ensures that the message both spoken and unspoken is understood, trusted, accepted and acted upon. Information consists of data which may or may not be accepted or utilized.
- Holding your cards close to the vest is great for poker, but not for building trust and gaining committed to achieve desired goals. Withholding information produces bewilderment and leads to passivity. It may also indicate a lack conviction and a need for confirmation before committing to a decision or action plan.
- Communication should be consistent and complete. It should not be tailored by staff level. Assuming that senior staff deserves and can handle full disclosure while front line staff wants only a limited positive spin has been disproven time and again. This assumption, often referred to the “I’ll steer and you just pedal” philosophy, was discarded years ago when quality circles, process improvement and safety ideas illustrated that entry personnel can master complexity and ambiguity.
- Communication cannot gloss over errors or mistakes. Even the emperor with no clothes eventually admitted to reality. Deception, obfuscation, and omission reduce respect and create divisions. It only amplifies uncertainty. Owning up to what went wrong is the first step to making things right.
- Communication must not be mind-boggling. It must be tested for clarity. Napoleon stationed a private outside his tent and asked the private to read his communiqués. If the private could not understand a portion, he rewrote it. Even an Emperor knew he needed clarity and uniform understanding of proposed plans to be successful.
- Repeating a message using different venues (large group and informal settings), formats (presentation and Q&A) and media (verbal, written and digital) improves not only understanding, but also acceptance.
Will following these guidelines really pay-off? It has for many leaders. Organizations with highly effective communicators produce almost 50% higher returns to shareholders over a five year period. This improved results from reduced rework, key talent retention, less conflict, greater productivity and better resource utilization. Improve your communication effectiveness by retiring the sound bite and applying sound communication practices.
Keywords: Communication, Influence, Leadership
Originally published: http://bizcatalyst360.com/sound-bites-can-bite/
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