Decision Making Can Be Made Easier
Decision making becomes complicated and slow as companies scale up. It's fixable!
As an entrepreneur and an operator who has been part of global businesses, I am often asked about my decision making process. To be honest, I was quite late to realize the importance of having a standardized decision making process or a framework around it.
But, why so? I will have to admit that I really enjoyed the freedom in decision making, without having to bother about the “discipline” needed while using frameworks! Also, at many of the places I worked, it was very clear who owned the decision; so the process to make it effectively, mattered less.
But as my team scaled up, I came across some challenges when it came to decision making:
Found it tough to be closer to the points of decision making
Wasted a lot of time in discussions that did not lead to a decision
Got confused often on whether to go with the data or gut
Struggled to bring my highly talented and strongly opinionated team to agree on a decision.
As I started reading about the nuances of decision making, I came across a lot of seasoned leaders who believed that the success of your decision making process wasn’t always in choosing the best option, but in making the most of the information available to you, acquiring trust from your stakeholders and then executing it with conviction and commitment. And now, I can’t agree more!
A team might have internal conflicts and debates, but when they decide to implement something then they should stand committed to it. That’s the art of decision-making!
I spent some time looking at some of the frameworks that can be helpful when you are trying to scale-up your business or teams. These frameworks not only expedite the decision making, but also help in creating a culture that cuts through politics and bureaucracy by bringing transparency in the “why” and “how” of decision making!
Here’re some of my learnings from my experiments. Do share yours with me.
Defining the roles for decision making creates transparency and accountability
Transparency is pivotal for decision making, both in startups and large organizations. Lack of transparency in the process erodes trust among employees and can become a cause of conflict. It is important to clarify who plays what roles in the process.
I recently came across RAPID, a framework created by Bain & Company to clarify different roles while a decision has to be made. RAPID is a loose acronym that stands for Input, Recommend, Agree, Decide and Perform. The framework assigns owners to the five key roles in any decision. It has been successfully used in fast growing companies like Uber, LinkedIn & Coinbase (Hear Emilie Choi, COO and President of Coinbase talking about it).
Of course, as a startup leader this might seem like too much effort. You might think that a lot of this can be done instinctively. But I have learnt from experience, that as your business scales up, you will need frameworks to define your decision making, roles and responsibilities. And it’s better if you make this a part of the process early on.
It’s not one-size fits all, but some items are table stakes
Decision-making process varies for different organizations. It’s not like you can replicate exactly what the other organization is doing. So whatever be your decision-making framework, here are some of the best practices that have helped me:
Clear Communication: The shorter your communication is on a problem and its solutions, the better it is. Shorter and crisper communication helps remove any chance of confusion. Not to mention, it’s also time-saving and easier to implement.
Solutions-oriented: The decision-making framework should avoid blame games or finger-pointing in outlining the problem or opportunity, and be constructive. Be positive and shine light on solutions and not just the problems.
Outline the Options: Your decision making document should include the options you considered, the tradeoffs, and your recommendation. Support with data wherever possible
Inputs from the Experts: In every organization there are decision makers and there are experts. In many cases, they are not the same. So if you are a decision maker or a recommender for a decision, seek inputs from the experts. These inputs will tremendously improve the quality of recommendations and mitigate risks around the decision.
Reversible vs Irreversible Decision: It is important to clarify whether a decision is reversible or irreversible. More often than not most of the decisions fall into the reversible category. Some of them may be very important and have a cost and time associated with reversing them, but reversible nonetheless. When you tag a decision as reversible, it reduces the pressure from the decision maker and makes decision making faster. Of course, exercise much more rigor if the decision is irreversible.
Explain Why the Decision: When a decision is made, make sure you add “Why” you made the decision. While the document may show the “How” very well, the “Why” really matters in the long term, in case one has to revisit the decision at a later point of time. It also helps you to get higher buy-in from your teams.
Organizations use different frameworks for decision making as there is no perfect framework! In fact sometimes overusing a framework can even make the teams slower, so one has to choose what sort of framework is right for the company.
However, the idea of having a common language around decision making is powerful. Imagine if your junior most employees to your c-suite, across your multiple offices (or in the remote world) use a similar process to make their decisions, how much consistency will come in daily discussions and decisions.
Are you considering testing something like this or do you already have such frameworks in place in your organization? I would love to learn more about it!