As CEO or Head Teacher, do you occasionally feel frustrated by the failure of your senior managers to implement decisions effectively or their blaming of others for the ineffective outcome? Occasionally, the cause may be the incompetence of a manager. Usually, the cause is ambiguity in the decision processes within the school, company etc. That can lead to a leader thinking, “it’s time to reorganize”. That is an expensive route which seldom addresses the real problem but will drain the energy and distract the focus of the company or school.
Some of the common breakdowns I find are noted below.
Neglect of the Organisation’s Decision Process
The breakdown in translating decisions into effective strategies and operational plans arises when the decision and advice process has been neglected. Organisations are living entities and decisions are necessary to sustain and develop them but decisions are not made in isolation as the diagram below indicates.
Prior to a decision being made, several steps have to be taken and those can be the point at which a lack of clarity creeps in and will effect the rest of the process:
- Information and data has to be gathered that takes account of your context and issues;
- The data and information is assessed and conclusions are formed – this is an important step as it establishes the options that will be considered or discarded. Options are then presented in the form of advice or recommendations to the decision maker who may be an individual or a panel. Understanding the nature of the relationship between the adviser and decision maker is also key;
- The decision maker decides the way forward and commits the organisation or departments or project team to action;
- Translating the decision into strategy or objectives and outcomes that need to be actioned by the affected persons;
- Implementation of the decision to secure the outcomes.
It is an iterative process. For example, the options may require that the data is revisited to validate the emerging conclusions. The process sounds relatively simple but the breakdown often occurs because there is ambiguity about where the options or advice may be modified or accepted for putting to the decision maker.
Breakdown and Ambiguity
The steps which are often prone to breakdown are shown with orange framed text in the above illustration. The decision process is corrupted by a lack of clarity as to who is responsible for:
i) the veto of any of the options to be put forward;
ii) giving the recommendations/advice to the decision maker;
iii) making the decision;
iv) translating the decision into objectives or a brief for managers;
v) implementation and ‘local’ modifications.
When reviewing processes, I am still surprised by how many individuals believe that they have the authority to take one of more of the above actions (or do not regard themselves as being responsible) which leads to confusion, compromises or lack of engagement to the process and a disappointing outcome.
Delegation and Ambiguity
As part of the development of a future leader or to encourage buy in to the conclusions and outcome, the CEO or Head Teacher, for example, may delegate the authority to make a decision. The CEO/Head may reserve the right to give input into the decision process but not necessarily to veto the conclusions.
Standing back is not easy so it is worthwhile investing time in briefing the ‘decision maker’ to develop his/her understanding of the key points of how the advice/decision process works and build the decision maker’s confidence in making a decision which will be implemented effectively.
Implementation – Translation of the Decision into Objectives/Pans
The decision maker needs to consider:
- Who will secure the engagement of the implementing managers to ensure the purpose and key parameters are understood?
- What freedom will affected divisions/teams/managers have to work within those parameters to ensure the outcome is effective?
- Who will be accountable to ensure that the flexibility/freedom is used to tailor the outcomes of the decision to, for example, the local customer or student base?
- The translation step is often where a slant may be placed on the objectives/plans so it pays to think about who has a track record and/or the integrity to ensure the decision is translated faithfully.
Remove Ambiguity to Save Money and Frustration
Rather than reorganise as the first choice of action, invest time in analysing your decision/advice processes to identify where there is a lack of clarity as noted above. That will provide the following benefits:
- Less frustration and delays as all involved will be clear as to who has what authority/freedom;
- The effectiveness of advice and decisions is improved because the responsibility for the formation of options, the giving of advice and the implementation of the decision have been clarified;
- Relationships between colleagues/teams are improved;
- Frustration is reduced for the CEO/Head as ambiguity has been removed and managers and their advisers know who is accountable at the different steps.
Decision/advice analysis approaches are powerful in identifying breakdown points and confusion that will hinder the purpose and effectiveness of the decisions made.
HR Management Dimensions uses a particular approach that has been developed over the years. In practice, we find that applying this method to particular parts or projects in an organisation achieves the desired results.
If you would like help to review your decision and advice process
call Jim Harrington on 07808 765588 to discuss how we can help you.