Several years ago Marcia Blenko, Michael Mankins, and Paul Rogers (all Bain consultants) wrote a book called Decide & Deliver – 5 Steps to Breakthrough Performance in Your Organization. Recently, they converted it into a white paper. Since their research provides important clues for improving decision making, I’d like to summarize it today and tomorrow. I hope it will encourage you to read more – it’s useful stuff.
Step 1 – Score Your Organization. Most of us don’t give our organizations a grade for the quality of our decisions. But we rate ourselves on most everything else, so why not decision making? The authors suggest a broad survey of managers and employees, followed by face-to-face interviews. Ask four basic questions:
These are simple, straightforward questions but I suspect that most of our organizations don’t give much thought to them. Once you’ve gathered the information, Bain has a database of companies to benchmark against.
Step 2 – Focus on Key Decisions. You can’t evaluate every decision, so identify the critical ones in two different categories: 1) Big, high-value strategic choices – most of these are obvious. 2) Operating decisions that “are made and remade frequently and generate a lot of value over time.” These are less obvious but might include things like merchandising decisions. Companies often make millions of merchandising decisions; shifting even a small percentage from “bad” to “good” can make a huge difference.
To identify the most important decisions, consider two key attributes:
The authors also suggest using the Decision X-Ray. When a decision goes bad, don’t just fix it. Study how the decision was made and identify the factors that caused it to fail. Then apply the lessons to future decisions.
Step 3 – Make Decisions Work. Four elements here: What, Who, How, and When.
Tomorrow: Steps 4 and 5: Build an Organization and Embed Decision Capabilities.