Innovation Junkies Podcast

Four Practices to Streamline Decision-Making in Your Organization

The Jeffs talk about what it takes to improve the decision-making process in your organization. They dive into having a culture of empowerment instead of a culture of autonomy, minimizing unnecessary policies & procedures, and the Four Cs of decision-making & how to apply them to your business.

Jeff Standridge (Intro):
Are you ready to change the trajectory of your business and see massive improvements? Each week, we’ll share strategies and practices to generate sustained results and long-lasting success in your organization. Welcome to The Innovation Junkies Podcast.

Jeff Standridge:
Hey guys. Welcome to another episode of The Innovation Junkies Podcast. I’m Jeff Standridge.

Jeff Amerine:
Hey, and this is Jeff Amerine. How you doing?

Jeff Standridge:
Hey, I’m good man. Summer’s flying by. I can’t hardly believe that kids are getting ready to go back to school. And you generally like to take a little bit of downtime during the summer, but I think we’ve all been busier than a one-armed paper hanger.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah. And the good news about the fall coming is college football, right around the corner.

Jeff Standridge:
It gets no better than that.

Jeff Amerine:
That’s right.

Jeff Standridge:
It gets absolutely no better that. Hey, let’s hop into what we’re talking about today, Jeff. We are talking about timely decision making. So, this is part of one of the best practices around organizational effectiveness. As you know we, with our growth DX, we evaluate 75-some-odd best practices across a variety of domains or competency domains. We spent our last several weeks talking about the revenue velocity domain. We started a couple of weeks ago talking about the organizational effectiveness domain and we’ve got three or four episodes left in that domain before we jump into the operational effectiveness.
So a couple episodes ago, we talked about the mission and vision component of organizational effectiveness. Then we talked about organizational targets and goals, so what are the long-term targets that have to be accomplished for a vision to come to fruition? And then what are the short-term goals that need to be accomplished within the next 12 months to move us as far down the path as we can. Today we’re talking about timely decision making for practices to make sure that decision making in your company happens fast and easily. So how about we jump into that?

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, it sounds good. And I’ll say it, in general one of the things that you see in organizations of varying sizes is the fear of not having adequate information to be able to make an appropriate decision. So sometimes perfection is the enemy of good enough. And I think that all of these things that we’re going to cover today, support that idea that taking a decision in an appropriate, in a timely fashion, can make all the difference in a business, because lack of a decision leads to the sort of atrophy and things happening to you rather than taking action on what needs to be acted upon. So let’s-

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah and at its core, lack of a decision is in fact a decision, right?

Jeff Amerine:
That’s right. Yeah, it is. And we see it all too often. People feel paralyzed. They don’t think they can make a decision or move forward on something and they miss out as a result.

Jeff Standridge:
Well let’s start with point number one here, is having a culture of empowerment versus one of autonomy. So a little bit about empowerment versus autonomy. Interestingly, I looked up the word empowerment the other day as I was preparing for another talk. And when you empower someone, you actually strengthen their ability and their confidence at controlling the circumstances around them, at making decisions. And so having this concept of empowerment is that people are strengthened in their ability to make decisions on behalf of the organization, within a set of boundaries. A lot of people get autonomy and empowerment confused. Autonomy is making decisions independent of anyone else, or independent of outside influence or a set of boundaries, where empowerment is making decisions within a set of guidelines or a set of boundaries. And organizations that build a culture of empowerment, they actually strengthen the ability of their people to make decisions in a timely fashion and to make good decisions within a timely fashion.

Jeff Amerine:
A hundred percent right. And part of that comes from this idea of having well understood limits of authority. And sometimes what large organizations will do is they’ll deflate their lower-level supervisors and even their line employees, because they won’t have the authority to act on anything. They’ll be plenty responsible and plenty accountable, but they’ll have to ask permission to make a decision, which they ought to be able to make at their level. And so in the military days, and it goes back that far, more than 40 years, we talked about this equilateral triangle where you have in equal measure, authority, responsibility, and accountability. And what often happens in organizations of varying sizes is the authority is not there. And so consequently you’re hamstrung and you can’t make that timely decision, because you haven’t empowered that next person in the food chain to be able to do so.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah. So you ask yourself three questions. Am I accountable for the results of whatever happens with this decision? Am I responsible for ensuring that those results come to fruition? And then thirdly, do I have the authority to make that decision in order for those results to be managed?

Jeff Amerine:
Exactly. And it leads into this next one as well. I think about minimizing unnecessary policy and procedure. Talk about some of that.

Jeff Standridge:
Well, how many times do we… Now granted I am a proponent of having business processes outlined and documented because that actually improves the level of empowerment within an organization. But to have a decision grid for every single decision that has to be made, or to have an inordinate amount of policies and procedures, that any way I go I run the risk of violating them, can just be too onerous on the decision-making process and slows things down enormously.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah. The thought of that balance loose-tight or the balance between having guidelines, where you still allow someone that you’re asking to do something, the ability to exercise their own judgment and to not be afraid of violating some procedure or policy they weren’t even aware of.

Jeff Standridge:
Well, I’ve even heard of examples before of organizations that say, ”You have the authority and you are empowered to make any decision you can make to ensure that your customer is satisfied up to $3,000.” Up to a $1000, whatever the nature of the products and services that you sell. But that’s an example of empowering someone, giving them a set of guidelines and not trying to manage them by onerous policies, procedures, and decision trees.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah. And it can cause a lot of strife within an organization if there’s this “gotcha” game where people believe they are empowered to actually take action and then they’re told by someone that’s in a compliance or control role, it’s like, ”No, you needed to coordinate that with these other five groups.” So making sure there’s clarity there I think is the key thing.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah that also plays into having a clear organizational structure, clear organizational chart, where everyone knows who reports to whom. And if I’m struggling to make this decision, to whom can I go in order to fast track the process? Who’s my direct leader? Who’s his or her direct leader? And how do we get this decision made quickly when I feel maybe not as empowered as I should? Because there will come some situations where it’s ambiguous and I don’t really know the answers to the authority, responsibility, accountability, all of those three components of the triad. And I might need to just get someone in the boat with me. Well, to whom do I go? Is it clear?

Jeff Amerine:
And even… And when you’ve got that clarity on org chart, there’s an interesting process that I’ve used, most times to solid results.

Jeff Standridge:
Most times, most times.

Jeff Amerine:
And that is, unless directed otherwise, and there’s an acronym you could use, unless directed otherwise… But how you get the ability to have enough rope or a leash to do that, that unless directed otherwise, is you send that notice or that email, or make that call or that voicemail or that text to say, ”This is what I’m thinking of doing and here’s why, unless directed otherwise.” And that way, in organizations that I think value that kind of a mindset are the ones that get a lot of stuff done and head in a good direction.

Jeff Standridge:
One of the boards that I serve on, we use the SBAR process. So anytime the executive team is bringing an item that requires board approval, usually it’s for an unbudgeted expenditure of some sort, of a certain level, they’ll come forward with an SBAR. So situation, background, analysis and my recommendation. Here’s the situation. Here’s some background that led to that situation. Here’s my analysis of the situation and the cost implications and the ROI implications. And here’s my recommendation based upon that. And that tremendously streamlines and standardizes the process when a decision has to be elevated up through the channels. Make it easy on the decision maker. If you’re not the one to make the decision, make it easy on the decision maker to say yes, or to say no for that matter.

Jeff Amerine:
Absolutely. And underpinning on all of this, is effective communication and overcommunication. And also making sure that when you think about where you sit in the org chart, am I just getting this communication because it’s informational or am I expected to take some action or approval on it? So that’s an element of what I would say would be necessary policy and procedures. Understand what am I really signing off on? Does the buck stop with me? Or is this just an FYI? Some of that clarity can really help.

Jeff Standridge:
That’s right. I like to talk about the four ways that I make decisions in an organization, or that a leader should make decisions within an organization. It’s really based upon the risks involved with making that decision, or with a decision at hand, and the competence of the people who are making the decision, or the competence of the team to make the decision. And so the first and foremost is the command decision making. The example I use is if the building catches on fire, I’m probably not going to say, ”Show of hands. What do you think we need to do?” I’m going to say, ”You go call 911, you close the fire doors, the rest of you follow me out, go out through that door. Let’s make sure everybody else is going.” I’m going to make a command decision.
Then there’s collaborative. The second C is collaborative decision making, where I pull people around the table, I ask for their feedback. I’m still going to make the decision. It’s still a single leader decision to be made, but I want to get feedback from all of the people who can help me make the best decision, while making it clear with them that the decision still rests with me.
Then there’s consensual decision making. Hey, you know what? The risks are a lot lower. The team’s very confident and competent in this regard. So let’s bring everybody together and say, ”What do you guys think? All right, so this is what we’ve decided. You good? You good? You good? You good? Anybody have any issues? Okay, great. Let’s move forward.”
And then finally, there’s what I call convenience decision making, where I am completely confident in the ability of the person making the decision. The risks may be high. The risks may be low. The risks may be somewhere in between. But I fully trust the judgment and decision-making ability and the competence of the person who’s… And I say, ”Look, make a decision. I trust you, whatever you decide to do.” So command, collaborative, consensual, and convenience decision making.

Jeff Amerine:
That’s a great guideline. And I think it’s time for us to make the decision to land the plane, my friend.

Jeff Standridge:
That’s exactly right. And what we’re going to talk about is the tail-end of decision making, is having people who have individual competency, along with clearly defined and accepted roles. And that also happens to be a component of performance expectations, which we’re going to be talking about in the next episode. All right, thanks for joining. This has been another episode of The Innovation Junkies Podcast. See you soon.

Jeff Amerine (Outro):
Feedback from listeners like you helps us create outstanding content. So if you like this episode, be sure to rate us or leave a review. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to get the latest growth in innovation strategies. Thanks for tuning in to The Innovation Junkies Podcast.

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