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