Companies that are best at handling decisions use a consistent process that defines how they make every major decision. Just as it is essential to clarify what decision is being made and who is responsible for ensuring that it is executed correctly, establishing how decisions get made is an important part of setting up decisions for success.
The companies that do this well agree on the criteria for evaluating a decision, consider the relevant facts, develop genuine alternatives - and then decide. Like RAPID, a structured decision process has the great advantage that people eventually come to understand how decisions get made - and expect it. If one person isn't following the drill, someone else is likely to raise a red flag.
That said, having a well-defined process doesn't guarantee that everyone will agree. Most big decisions require interaction between different departments or business units of a company and at times, it is necessary to escalate a decision. The trick is to make sure that executive time isn't wasted over minor issues - and, of course, to ensure that any decision that exposes the company to a significant risk does get pushed up to someone with a sufficiently broad view. The most effective companies spell out this path, setting thresholds for escalation, but also assuring people that bearers of bad news won't be blamed for it.
As you might expect, meetings are a key part of making decisions. But Bain research shows that about two-thirds of meetings run out of time before important decisions are made. Small wonder, then, that 85 per cent of executives surveyed by Bain were dissatisfied with the effectiveness of their companies meetings. The answer: design and run meetings with decisions in mind.
There are many ways to do this. Some simple techniques include: Distribute meeting materials in advance and label the items that require a decision. Begin each meeting by specifying that its purpose is to make a decision about "X." And of course, be sure that the meeting includes the people who have been assigned to key RAPID decision roles.
The final step in resetting decisions for success is to make the when explicit.
The best performers create schedules, timetables, milestones, deadlines. Bain's book mentions how Bob Walter, the CEO who led Cardinal Health from start-up to $100 billion in sales during his tenure, was a stickler for avoiding decision drift. He would say, "Delay is the worst form of denial." When an issue hit the executive agenda at Cardinal, the clock began ticking. Every team had a certain length of time to come back with facts, alternatives and recommendations. Every executive had a strict timetable for making a decision and making sure it was carried out. Timetables ensure that decisions get made at the right speed and that execution stays on track.
By resetting your critical decisions - establishing the what, who, how and when of the decisions you make, you too will likely see better, faster decisions and improved performance - and a renewed sense of engagement and enthusiasm among the people involved.
This article was written by Karim Shariff, Partner based in Dubai and Head of Middle East Organization Practice, Bain & Company and Jenny Davis-Peccoud, Senior Director, Global Organization Practice, Bain & Company.