By Laura Thorne, MACNY Consulting Partner
In a leadership position, you are faced with dozens, if not hundreds, of decisions a day, both big and small. Some of those decisions require little effort to address, while others can be daunting. However, some decisions that need to be made can come completely out of left field and seem impossible to get right. Without a proper system in place to manage decisions, you can become burnt out, open yourself to risk, or face decision paralysis – the inability to make a decision at all. Oftentimes, making no decision is the worst thing you can do.
But, there’s one other situation that is hard to get a pulse on: the decisions that never get to be made. These could be your biggest missed opportunities. This happens when a business is operating by the seat of their pants. When you are focused on fixing short-term, immediate problems whereby all your decisions are limited to the resources you have on hand. In those moments, you don’t have the opportunity to make proactive decisions — the kind that come from looking ahead, being creative, and taking you to the next level.
The decision-making process does not have to be like this. The key to making sound business decisions rests upon the ability to generate and capture ideas, and then choose the best option from that selection of ideas. It’s important to decide on a direction after considering all options, not just the few at hand. On top of that, how do you not only make one good business decision, but many over and over? How do you repeatedly generate good business decisions? The answer is idea-generating systems.
Systems are a collection of processes that work together to accomplish results. For example, a process for generating ideas might be having a suggestion box or a feedback form. Those processes should live within a greater system that ensures feedback is collected from all customers, all employees, and all events. Processes dictate the step-by-step actions needed to make a decision while the system is ongoing and holistic.
For any innovative company, there are four processes within the decision-making system: generating ideas, capturing ideas, fostering ideas, and measuring and tracking results. This is particularly fitting for manufacturers as repeatable processes are the name of the game in the industry. Let’s break down how to get the best results for each process:
- Generating ideas: Generating ideas is where everything begins. At this stage, no idea is a bad one. When generating ideas, it’s important that the decision-making process includes the right people, which in some cases, means everyone. For instance, if you’re tackling an issue of high employee turnover, it’s worthwhile to get the perspective of a few employees that may not typically be part of the decision-making process. Their input may help you better understand the root cause of high turnover and better address it.
It’s also important that everyone fully understands why the decision is being made. What exactly are you looking to accomplish? What are the KPIs you will be measuring to track your results?
In the strategic operations diagram above, steps 1 – 4 are all part of the idea generating stage.
- Capturing ideas: After you’ve sat down with all relevant parties and brainstormed, break down what the best idea would be and why. See if those solutions fit with the company’s mission and vision statement, or if they could realistically bring the company closer to the goal. Also, make sure the decision aligns with the company’s ethics and values, as well as your personal ones.
In the strategic operations diagram above, steps 4 represents the idea capture phase.
- Fostering ideas: Allow these ideas to come to life — think about the logistics of each idea and how they would work practically. Is this solution possible to enact within a certain budget? Would people within the company be receptive to the decision? Once a few ideas are fully fleshed out, pick the one that you think is the most practical and would achieve the best results.
In the strategic operations diagram above, steps 4 is also where ideas are fostered.
- Measure and track results: As aforementioned, any system should be ongoing and holistic. This is where tracking results comes in. Arguably, the most important part of the decision-making process is following through. Did the decision achieve the desired result? Was there something that could be improved? Measuring results not only helps illustrate the effectiveness of the decision, but also prevents future mistakes from happening. Years down the line, if you or someone else is faced with a similar problem, you can look back on the results this decision yielded.
In the strategic operations diagram above, steps 5 is where the ideas that became decisions to act on are tracked and measured.
The last thing you want to do is come to a meeting where decisions need to be made with no premeditated ideas tied to the immediate needs of the business. Despite good intentions, this happens all too often. In Part 2 of this article, we’ll dive further into the Strategic Operations System and how each stage (when integrated with this idea generating system) can help focus, align, and balance your improvement projects.
Laura Thorne specializes in strategy and execution through workshops, coaching, and other services. If you’d like to learn more about strategy and how to think strategically, register for Laura’s upcoming training sessions:
- FREE Strategy Kickstarter: How to go out of the Woods and on to the Pathway to Success on August 31 from 3-4 PM | Register Now