Those of us still scarred by primary school maths remember that a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square. And so it goes with decision making, writes Carolyn Evans and Tanya van der Wall, where not all roles in decision making processes are decision making roles.
Reviewing past decisions is a crucial part of organisational performance improvement, but it is about much more than a good dose of 20/20 hindsight. One of the positive approaches is to look again at the roles that individuals actually play in the process.
It is an old-fashioned truism that success has many parents but failure is often an orphan. So when we are reviewing decision making processes, we don’t see much benefit to clients in deconstructing particular decisions, using consultant’s 20/20 hindsight!
Instead, what we find is helpful to many boards and senior teams is to look at how decisions are made:
»are all the right people involved?
»are people involved who don’t need to be?
»does each person understand their role?
»is each person ready to fulfil their role?
Organisations that have been around a while tend to accumulate processes, building them up in layers as the complexity of the work grows and the team expands. Over time, many firms do review structures, but few look deeply at how decisions are made within those structures.
To actually resolve issues, a practical (and often quite hard nosed) look at those decision making processes is necessary. Not at all infrequently, this brings to light a variety of underlying problems, which team members often describe saying “oh, that’s always been a problem”.
Our alternative approach is to frame these issues in terms of the roles that a person would typically play in a decision making process.
In actual decision making roles, for example, it is all about who is
responsible for outcomes that need to be realized, along with identifying who is accountable for the main component parts of those outcomes, how (and how effectively) they are interacting, whether they are clear about what they are doing, and so on.
Who can help implement decisions by their support is also relevant, along with who else might need to be consulted or just kept informed at some level.
These latter aspects involve a much wider circles of participants in the decision making process, people who are not actually decision makers within the scope of that process. So suppliers and customers might well be involved, but the decisions they make (whether to contract with the firm, or buy its products or services, for example) are part of other processes.
What’s your take on this dilemma? Leave us a comment or give us a call to discuss further.