Speed of Leadership Decision-Making During Difficult Business Environments

TIFFANY SAUDER

Video Transcript

We know as leaders that the right decision too late is still the wrong decision. And so the speed of decision making is incredibly important always in business, but specifically, particularly, when you’re going through a time of crisis or competing against some outside factor that’s trying to get your attention like this crazy recession. So here’s a few things that I think about and that we advise clients with when we’re having to increase the speed of decision making.

The first one is go through scenario planning, like figure it out. What are going to be the triggers? What are the thresholds that are going to require you to make different decisions? And when those thresholds are crossed, what are the decisions you’re going to have to make? That’s not a new concept, scenario planning. But one of the things that has helped me stay honest to the decisions that I say I’m going to make is publishing those plans to leaders in the organizations or outside advisors to hold you accountable, to make the decisions that are almost always things you don’t want to do.

It’s hard. It’s hard to make decisions that impact jobs, that shut down plants, you know, it’s like we don’t get to make happy decisions usually when we’re in a crisis, fighting outside factors. So do scenario planning, get really smart and be creative in the way that you’re thinking about how you’re resourcing, how you’re using the assets that you have. Are the revenue opportunities? Think all the way around it.

That’s a different video — how to do that. Do scenario planning and make sure that you publish it so you have accountability, that when you’re in the heat of the moment and the that when you’re in the heat of the moment and the fire is really hot, that you have the courage to make the hard decisions. Second is that when we have to share these tough decisions with our organizations or our departments, a framework that I have found really helpful to get people aligned is to have them think through the information I’m sharing in these three things.

The first is, do you understand it? When we’re getting shared something, we usually first react emotionally. I get it. So do I, but to ask them to stick in their head first, “Do you understand it?” Do you understand what I’m saying and do understand why? And you understand the business pressures that are there?Having your listener answer those questions will help you get really clear with yourself if you know they’re going to ask those questions.

Do you understand it? The second is, do you agree with it? You being the person sitting in the seat, do you agree? Do you understand? These are all the things at play. Do you understand these are the options that we had? And do understand that this is the decision we made and why? And do you agree with it?

And the third is, do you like it? There are a lot of decisions I have had to make that I understood and I agreed with, but I didn’t like it. I just didn’t like it. And we can accidentally say it was the wrong decision when the truth of the matter is we just didn’t like that we needed to make that. So in these moments, I have found it helps everybody, sort of the temperature come down in the room, when I outlined that framework first.

We’re going to talk about something tough and I’m going to ask you guys to take the information in this framework. Do you understand it? Do you agree with it? And lastly, do you like it? It can be. Yes, I understand it. Yes, I agree with it. And no, I don’t like it. It can be I don’t understand it. That’s fair, too.

And so it helps you as a leader know where you’re starting. And if nobody in the room agrees with it, then you need to hear, why not? Let’s get back to our brutal facts. Help me understand what I’m missing. That, to me has created a really rich conversation in a season of change where the temperatures can be hot and emotions are high.

And I get it, that is really real. I think that’s a tool as a leader that we can bring to get everybody intellectually communicating, and not leaving emotions out of it, because the way we feel about things really does matter. The last trick that I have found in helping to speed up decision making, is to get really clear on the goals you have to hit, the one or two things that are absolutely imperative to the whole mission going right. Make it wildly visible.

Like every minute of every day you can see it and manage to it. Make it visible every single day, have a daily stand up, publish it at the end of the day, send a daily email out to the organization, knowing what the progress was. When you can celebrate these iterative gains, it starts to help people believe that momentum is going in the right direction.

So if you can get a little bit of inertia and everybody is pushing just a little bit harder
on that one or two metrics that you’re putting a lot of focus around, I have found that simple, simple step of making it visible and managing it every day can make a really big difference in the velocity that a team can create.

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