Strategic branding

Decision Making

Sam Frentzel-Beyme Follow Managing Partner & Strategy Director

The Short of It

  • Generating "buy in" is critical for projects, but clarity of assumptions is key.
  • Lack of clarity around assumptions is often what takes up so much time.
  • Companies that make the fastest decisions are about four times as likely to make high-quality decisions as companies with average or low speed scores.

Often during design projects, we will find out that more “buy in” is needed more for certain pieces than others. While we realize that consensus building is important, we have witnessed situations where the additional time taken to get the “buy in” actually ends up making things less clear because each party that is providing feedback or input is doing so around a different set of assumptions. The result is that the project completion date usually needs to be extended (which is a cost factor) to address the new information and the overall direction is usually less focused because not everyone is framing the situation from the beginning in the same way.

A recent book called Decide & Deliver by three Bain consultants confirmed my suspicion. According to their research, companies that make the fastest decisions are about four times as likely to make high-quality decisions as companies with average or low speed scores. The lesson is that even though people in top-performing organizations will adjust the speed of decision making to the type of problem they are addressing, they typically move faster than their competitors. While there are a number of anecdotes and additional analyses that make the book a worthwhile read, here is a quick overview of their Five Steps to Better Performance, which I think made a lot of sense.

1. Assess your decision effectiveness – and how your organization affects it. Like many things, you have to know the problem before you can solve it.

2. Identity your critical decisions. According to the authors’ experience, over 80 percent of most companies’ value is tied to less than 20 percent of the decisions its organization makes and executes.

3. Redesign individual critical decisions for success. Does everybody understand exactly what the decision is? Are all the roles clear to everybody? It’s interesting to see how sometimes these simple questions clarify how divergent interpretations can be from the get go.

4. Ensure that the organization enables and reinforces great decision making and execution. Their take is that often embedded organizational processes can hinder the decision making process.

5. Embed the changes in everyday practice. Creating new decision systems is one thing. Success is in making new and improved changes stick.

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