Saturday, April 1, 2006

The art of not deciding

20060226_iphoto_chess_1As a professional in the field of management (with a special interest in infotech businesses), I am particularly interested in good practices, tools and methods that make sense. One of the most important things a company can be helped with to enhance its ability to make decisions in an autonomous and responsible manner. This topic alone has huge influence on the way any organisation fares. If you want to learn what NOT to do, look at France these days.

The country's President made a decision to give the executive signature to a legislation he proposes... not to apply! From a psychological standpoint that is the reflection of an unresolved polarity, perhaps even an awkward attempt to escape from a double bind. One the one hand the President does not want to dismiss his Prime Minister and at the same time he does not want to face those who protest against a piece of legislation passed by a democratic government in a way fully compliant with the constitution of the country. Now, let us be clear I don't know whether this legislation is a "good" or a "bad" option for the country; and, because I have seen enough economic theories to know that economics is the art of telling you tomorrow why what was predicted yesterday does not work today, I am a partisan of experimentation. Unless the legislative measure is tried we will not know whether it works or not. Anyhow, my point here is to suggest that what happens to France sometimes happens to us as individuals and can also characterize some of the decisions taken in business. That's when leaders try to please (or rather to be "popular") more than to do their jobs: we live a surrealistic era where elected leaders ask the public where it wants to be led by way of more or less secret opinion polls. That's not listening to and answering the legitimate questions citizens have for the present and for the future; that's not understanding what they need and that's not how we can ward off their worst fears.

So what's needed to make a "good" decision?

  1. have an objective defined for the organization for which a decision is needed because a decision is a means to an end not an end in itself: what does France want to accomplish in terms of giving better chances to the young generation that faces an unemployment rate of 25% when middle aged people have a 4% unemployment rate? Similarly, what is it that your business, your team, your product, your marketing plan... etc. wants to achieve? The objective is the fundamental point because a decision is good or bad only in relative terms: for an organization, in a given context and in function of an objective. To properly define an objective, there are 9 criteria to meet as discussed in a previous post.

  2. seek and discuss as many of the possible options as you can imagine. Here the critical point is to be able to identify limiting assumptions and beliefs: for example what is it that the French people and businesses must be assuming to NOT employ young people and to NOT employ people whose names don't sound French "enough"? For example, what is it that we assume about employers to build rigid legislations to "protect" workers? And by the way what do we assume about workers' autonomy and ability to make themselves heard and to be respected? By questioning "truths" we can find more creative avenues. That is true in business as it is in personal or in government matters I believe.

  3. examine how there options could actually be implemented in field conditions, not simply in the heads of overtrained eggheads from famous schools. How is this actually goign to work is the key question? What would we do immediately were the option to be adopted? For what good is it to have laws that cannot be enforced? Perhaps only to give excuses to politicians who cannot obtain results...

  4. choose a way and EXECUTE in the best possible manner with what you have NOW, where you are NOW and what you can do NOW... When execution time kicks in, an organization needs all the resources it can muster.

  5. keep TESTING ALL THE TIME whether you are progressing towards results and adapt quickly: admitting a mistake does not cause people to die, while persevering on the wrong path does create a hell of a lot of trouble.

Decision making is not an easy part of management, but it is vital and the frame of reference is critical as shown very elegantly in Crossing the Chasm, a book that was kindly recommended to me by Philippe Back in one of his previous comments and which I am now reading. Will write a piece on it as soon as I finish it (it's great read anyway and I was wrong to be that skeptical).

No comments:

Post a Comment