Category Archives: Decision Making

Design your change around decisions

Decisions first, organisation later

Gormley ExhibitionWhich do you think should come first: the definition of the task to be carried out or the team to do the task? So what happens when an organisation needs to change: the top manager re-organises his senior team to prepare for the change. This seems to be putting the cart before the horse. Especially as the ‘new’ team have a new operational role to get to grips with before they can address the changes.

I propose that the key decisions needed to set up a change initiative are identified and then the appropriate leadership team are appointed to make those decisions.

click here to find out how

Three Myths for Change

Applying strategic thinking to change

Three MythsIn a recent blog posting on HBR Nick Tassler wrote about three myths he has found in strategic thinking. I thought these ideas have just as much relevance for Managing Change. These three myths help to focus on doing the right things to make a difference with the resources available — sound familiar? Yet look around you, are you really focussed on making a difference or is there some ‘make work’ in there as well? My recent experience at meetings and consulting with a local authority have again awoken my awareness of the pervasive Parkinson’s Law.

Click here to discover the Myths and what they might imply

Avoiding Blunders

Blunder: a spectacular change failure

Government BlundersA book I have just finished reading contains some excellent ideas for avoiding a complete failure in a change. The book, The Blunders of our Governments by Prof. Anthony King and Sir Ivor Crewe describes a series of major blunders by our governments. In each case a government minister set out a radical change in the way things are done and ended up wasting billions of pounds and abandoning the change. The most famous is the introduction of the poll tax; but there are eleven biggies in here. As with many significant change failures, its not just the government that is hurt (well its the taxpayers that foot the bill for these in-competencies) but also customers: you and me (who are also tax payers). Similarly, those at the top who should be accountable seem to have the traditional punishment of promotion and whitewash. The authors identified errors in human thinking and system errors which led to these blunders.

These are the human thinking lessons the authors put forward (the system errors are in the next blog posting): click here to see the lessons

Making Decicions Work

Before, During, After

Scott McNealyI have put up a number of posts about making decisions and especially the key role of decision making in Change Management; such as ‘Good enough decisions‘ and ‘making decisions at the right time‘. I have come across a quote, attributed to Scott McNealy a founder and CEO of Sun Microsystems, which has put decision making into a bigger context and has implications for the process of doing change. The quote is “I put most of my effort into making my decisions work”. The insight I get from Scott is the need to balance the effort in decision making across the whole process leading up to the decision, making the decision, and implementing the decision.

A decision process

It is not difficult to build a three step process for decision making. What is surprising is that most of the effort (as suggested by Scott McNealy) is in the third step. Here are my suggested steps:

  1. Prepare for the decision
  2. Make the decision
  3. Implement the decision

Decision StepsBased on my earlier blogs and reading (such as the Chip Heath book on Decision Making) I have put together a simple description of the steps following the diagram on the right.

1. Prepare

The work in preparing covers:

  • Working out the information required to make the decision and getting hold of that information.
  • Choosing the appropriate time to make the decision (not too early and not too late) see blog on big science.
  • Exploring the risks around the decision: especially assumptions about the future and information that cannot be obtained in time to make the decision (which leads to assumptions).
  • Working out who needs to provide input to the decision and who will make the decision.
  • Preparing options for the decision.
  • What needs to be done to implement the decision and who needs to be involved, given the options and risks. (Most decision making is choosing between options).

 2. Making the decision

Making a decision should be a social activity. The people who need to be involved should be able to debate the options, risks, and possible outcomes. Hopefully those represented will reflect the people affected by the decision. The person who is accountable will then make the decision.

3. Implement the decision

This is the piece of insight for me. Having made the decision in the best possible way given the risks and options the person responsible now puts their shoulder behind the effort to make this decision work. This implies not taking a fatalistic view of the future (it will be what it will be) but of being proactive and making the future fit the plans so that the decision works.

This is the part where all the effort happens. The preparation for the decision will have identified activities needed to make the decision work; including risk mitigation activities.

Decisions in Change

There are lots of decisions to be made during an organisational change: what to change, when to change, who to change, etc. If we follow a significant decision: to actually start the change in a part of the business — typically moving from planning the change to implementing the change — we can see the similarity in the change process built around this decision. A similar decision lies around declaring the change complete (the outcomes and performance have been achieved). In both cases, the effort to make the decision work comes after the decision and is quite substantial.

I like the idea of making a good enough decision and then working hard to make it the right decision; rather than working hard to make the ‘right’ decision and then hoping hindsight is sufficient. You will notice that politicians often fret about being right and don’t like being wrong; and that the media hold them to account in a similar way. Is this a good way to run a country, let a lone an important change? Let me know what you think via twitter or add a comment to the blog.


New Year, New Behaviour

New ways of thinkingfirworks

The new year party is over and everyone turns to wonder what the new year will be like. And then you start to think about what are you going to do to make it better and different. Of course there are plenty of articles and blogs to suggest some ideas — and this is one of them! In this context a blog by Rosabeth Moss Kanter stands out with some excellent ideas about doing change.

Click here to find out what the ideas are