Want to Grow Your Business? Accelerate Your Decision Making!
A common characteristic we typically ascribe to high-performing leaders is their critical thinking processing power—the ability to analyze and synthesize disparate data quickly, separate the relevant from the irrelevant and draw the right conclusion. Those skills, when performed collectively by the top levels of leadership are the essence of agile organizational decision-making. It can either be a powerful differentiator or a significant liability for growth-oriented companies.
The growing pains associated with rapid expansion often create challenges that leaders must vigilantly look for and quickly address. Based on our work with a diverse range of clients—whether those driving rapid expansion or grappling with stagnant growth—we’ve listed some of the common culprits for these challenges below. And, more importantly, we’ve summarized the solution to those pain points.
The Over-Involved Founder/CEO
Challenge: For long-tenured founders, being the center of all decision-making can be a very difficult habit to break. In their view, it’s the fastest form of decision-making. However, to their lieutenants, it can be disempowering—and increasingly dangerous—when key information for making those decisions effectively sits further down the organization. The best CEOs always ask: “What decisions can I push down?” That shifts their role from decider to coach.
Solution: Conduct a decision audit to review the last 10 key decisions made over the past 90 days as an executive leadership team. Which ones did the CEO take ownership for making versus embracing the recommendation provided to them? Based on that review, identify upcoming opportunities where the CEO can move from decider to coach.
By distributing decision ownership across the organization, the CEO can focus on overarching strategic priorities while empowering others to make timely decisions within their purview. This approach fosters collaboration, accelerates execution and promotes a nimbler organizational culture, all while building CEO bench strength.
Half-Baked Organization Design Changes
Challenge: There is always a temptation to declare victory once the new organization chart is printed; yet, organizations rarely do the work to re-wire decision-making rights. New structures usually create uncertainty surrounding roles and responsibilities, which significantly hinders decision-making speed and dilutes accountability. This challenge is particularly prevalent in rapidly growing businesses experiencing frequent organizational pivots.
Solution: A “RACI” or “RAPID” exercise can be highly effective in providing clarity about decision ownership and involvement as part of a redesign effort. Executive teams should also invest time in creating role scorecards for each leader to clarify deliverables, decisions they own (with input from peers) and decisions their peers own (where they expect to be consulted). Regular review and feedback with peers foster alignment, ensuring everyone understands their roles and responsibilities in the decision-making process.
The Overplay of “What If?”
Challenge: Newer leaders who are driven to prove themselves often fall into the trap of excessive analysis and seek more data before committing to a decision. While it is essential to gather relevant information, an overemphasis on considering every possible scenario can lead to decision paralysis and missed opportunities. Adjusting your course after making a decision based on emerging data is usually a better tactic than delaying making the decision in the first place.
Solution: To counteract the overplay of “what if?”, leaders should establish a decision-making checklist that specifies the decision that actually needs to be made, the timeline for making the decision, essential data required and the creation of feedback loops. By setting clear parameters and focusing on the most critical factors, organizations can streamline their decision-making process to strike a balance between thoroughness and timeliness.
Challenge: It is remarkable how often decisions resurface for discussion because stakeholders have no memory of previous resolutions. The combined effects of the sheer volume of decisions and the desired velocity in wanting to make those decisions create perfect conditions for forgetfulness, relitigation and decision déjà vu. While revisiting previous decisions can help ensure alignment on key issues, this lack of recollection hampers progress, wastes valuable time and creates frustration among team members.
Solution: A simple yet often overlooked solution is to maintain decision logs during meetings. These logs should capture follow-up actions required, the designated owner and expected completion time. Most importantly, they should document the decisions agreed upon. To be clear, they should not be full minutes of meetings. By implementing this practice, organizations create a reference point that prevents decision amnesia, ensuring past resolutions guide future actions.
The Accountability Scapegoat
Challenge: In matrixed organizations, or anywhere there’s unclear role clarity, leaders may lean on ambiguity as an excuse to avoid taking ownership of decisions. While they may discuss the lack of role clarity passionately, when confronted with a decision rights framework, some owners resist its implementation.
Solution: Using a decision-making framework can help address the accountability scapegoat challenge. This framework serves as a living reference point for decision stakeholders to provide real-time feedback and engage in structured quarterly check-ins. Feedback is not meant to be a “gotcha,” but rather a mechanism to monitor the clarity of roles and responsibilities and identify any adjustments that need to be made.
Solving Challenges and Accelerating Growth
Effective decision-making is paramount to successful strategy execution. It requires discipline and continuous feedback to achieve desired outcomes. By implementing the solutions outlined, organizations can demystify the opaque causes of their challenges and establish improved decision-making practices.
Where does your organization struggle the most when it comes to decisiveness? Identifying these pain points is an important ingredient in fostering a culture of efficient and informed decision-making. Then you can solve the key challenges, unlock the organization’s full potential and more quickly capitalize on opportunities across a dynamic business landscape.