Fast Decisions in an Ever-Faster World

How quickly can you and your team make important decisions? I’m not talking about where to go for lunch (though that’s very important and can definitely take a while!) or whether the new brochure should be bi-fold or tri-fold. I’m talking about strategic decisions that can impact the future of your organization. Can you make fast decisions? Can you pivot on a dime, quickly course-correct if needed, and keep growing your business without missing a step?

Many organizations make fast decisions. What I’ve seen more often than not is that the ability to course-correct, if needed, is sometimes severely hampered, and organizations miss a step when the most important thing in the world is forward progress.

Here’s why.

It’s a Data World, and We’re Living In It.

We live in a world of data, coming at us from everywhere, all the time. We WANT to make fast decisions based on data, BUT good, reliable data can be elusive. We see this particularly in organizations that are running many different systems, each with its own purpose, with (of course) many different reports, but it can also happen in organizations which have fully integrated sophisticated systems in place, but the systems weren’t implemented with decision making in mind.

In the former scenario, we see what we call “management by spreadsheet” a lot, and we’ve discussed that on our blog post, Spreadsheet Errors that Changed the World. In the latter scenario, under-scoped implementations are most frequently to blame, in which the implementer didn’t thoroughly explore HOW a system would be used but only focused on implementing software. (Truthfully, the greatest disservice that happens in OUR industry is software implementers who don’t take the time to learn about the business they’re implementing FOR – big pet peeve of mine! I address that important topic in another blog post, Generic NetSuite and E-commerce Don’t Go Together.)

Fast decisions depend on reliably good and easily accessible data and the ability to quickly synthesize it into meaningful decision inputs.

Visibility Is Terrible

To the average worker in most organizations, decisions come down from on high, typically without any efforts to socialize the decision, provide rationale, or even help workers understand how they can impact the results of the decision. Please be clear, I’m not casting stones – simply telling you what I’ve seen in many of the companies with which I’ve personally worked. Perhaps your organization isn’t like that.

But riddle me this – do the workers have visibility into what’s happening in the company? At least as it relates to their roles? In the old days, there were chalkboards, and then there were whiteboards, scattered around in different departments with key measurements on them. In the shipping department, the board might have headers on it like #Orders Today, #Orders Shipped Today. In the sales department, the whiteboard might have a daily sales tally on it. Know what I mean?

Fast DecisionsIn today’s world, the whiteboards have given way to online dashboards – quick visibility into what is happening and how business is trending. In an ideal world, every person on every team of every organization would have quick access to the metrics and trends as they relate to their specific role within the organization. How much more engaged would every employee be if they could SEE how they contribute to success, UNDERSTAND how their actions impact results, and PROVIDE INPUT when they see how they could impact results in a new and different way?

After all, decision aren’t made for the sake of making decisions. They’re made to impact results. (H/T Captain Obvious)

Without visibility, certainly by management and leaders, and ideally by all team members, organizations keep driving by looking in the rear view mirror, waiting for the reports on how things went last month, and getting their metaphorical feet stuck in the metaphorical mud instead of making a course correction as quickly as one is indicated.

When Fast Decisions Aren’t Actually Possible For You

While many organizations CAN make fast decisions, others cannot. Whether it’s getting mired in spreadsheets, a case of “analysis paralysis,” or simply differing viewpoints on how to solve a particular problem, react to a specific issue, or simply fear of making a bad decision, teams get stuck. There are a lot of schools of thought on this, from “do SOMETHING, even if it’s wrong” to “decisions should ultimately be made by one person.” I ascribe to both of those statements, but only in certain situations.

Let me explain. When you have good and reliable data – so you don’t go brain-dead trying to make sense of many different reports or spreadsheets, AND you have visibility so you can make course corrections quickly, you can absolutely take on the “do something, even it’s wrong” mentality. Make the best decision possible, own it, try it, and adjust if needed once you have measurable results. I also believe that, with all facts on the table, the buck should stop with one person, who has responsibility for executing on the decision, monitoring results, and advocating for change if needed. Is it always the same person, for every decision? Not in my world, but that might be the case in yours.

Competitors Come Out of Nowhere

A global economy supported by the internet is a miraculous thing, but it also can cause hand-wringing and head-banging. Whether you sell services or products, you could wake up one day and find a new competitor eating away at your market – and they might even be on the other side of the world.

The ability to make fast decisions in a world that is going faster every day is critical – as you know. What’s arguably even more critical is having the ability to UNMAKE a fast decision. That’s really hard for most organizations. Aside from the human factor of not wanting to “lose face,” as it were, fully understanding the impact of fast decisions as they unfurl is absolutely required. That’s the course-correction – monitoring results closely, examining trends as they are developing, and being able to pivot, or in some cases, pivot from your pivot, in a way that makes sense for your organization.

When Fast Decisions ARE Possible

You can make fast decisions, monitor results, and course-correct if necessary, if you have the right things in place:

  • The system or systems to properly support you. What if you could stop spending time analyzing reports and figuring out how they correlate to each other, and spend the time instead analyzing results and trends?
  • The visibility into what is happening NOW. Right now. Not last month or even last week – what is happening today?
  • A culture that allows you to make fast decisions and unmake fast decisions. This culture typically includes socializing decisions and the decision process so you don’t get labeled as a flip-flopping management team. This is really a culture of agility.

For many, this is the road not yet taken – and definitely a road worthy of following.

Now, back to the primary question – what are we having for lunch today?

About the Author:

Brendon leverages his 20+ years of consulting and sales experience to focus on helping his customers succeed. Brendon is responsible for the strategy, vision, and direction of Adaptive Road. In his spare time, he mentors young professionals, coaches baseball and softball, and enjoys watching his kids play sports. There's also golf, and plaid pants - but that's a story for another day.

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