Decision Making Role Models

Posted 01.09.2009


Yesterday was one of those rare ones where I got to spend most of the day on the balcony in observation mode.   I was the guest of one of my client organizations at an all day planning meeting between the senior managers of their U.S. and India operations.  Apart from doing a bit of small group facilitation around midday, I was able to watch what was going on.

Here’s a short list of the things I saw that were really encouraging to me that I think are worth the time and attention of executives charged with leading a diverse team to bigger and better results:

  • Discussion was data driven.  Performance reports were presented on key projects and accounts using a common template that made it easy to compare performance on key metrics.
  • People were heard.  The meeting was structured in a way that encouraged discussion and debate.
  • Respect was shown.  The day was a great example of the principle of being tough on issues and easy on people.
  • Opportunities were identified.  After hearing the performance reports, small groups were formed to identify trends that need to be addressed on a priority basis.
  • Next steps were clear.  At the end of the day, a short list of key action areas were identified with an owner and team for each area along with the clear expectation of a short term plan including “easy wins” within the next 30 days.
  • Appreciation was given.  Before leaving, everyone had an opportunity to say what they got out of the meeting, what they would suggest for next time and to thank their colleagues for the effort.

A lot of the good practices I saw yesterday are highlighted in a recently released study by McKinsey and Company on how companies make good decisions.    Over 2,000 executives in a wide range of industries and functions participated in the survey late last year.  In addition to spotlighting best practices, two common denominators of bad decisions stood out.  Bad decisions occur when they are made solely by one person.  An example would be the CEO or senior leader who makes a decision to move forward with a pet project without seeking the input and counsel of colleagues who will be responsible for carrying it out.  The other common denominator is decisions that are made on an ad hoc or stand alone basis with no consideration given to the overall strategic plan.

You can read the full report from McKinsey here.  In the meantime, what stories or insights do you have to share about how good (or bad) decisions get made?

Corporate politics has a bad name, but respondents suggest that the effect of politics depends on the nature of the tactics used. When executives involved in a decision were primarily concerned with its effect on their business unit rather than the overall organization, for example, financial results and all other measures of success were much likelier to fall far below expectations. Simply put, a silo mind-set hurts performance. In addition, slow project completion times are associated with selective information reporting.