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How to speed up decision making processes

Leading & managing change 11th September 2020

This video is the second in a series. It explores the topic of decision making and how to speed up the decision making process within your team or organisation.

Free toolkit

How to speed up decision making processes


About the presenter: Miranda Wheatley Price

Miranda has spent 20 years immersing herself in organisational change. During this time she has delivered significant change projects that have helped transform organisations.

Miranda co-founded Rubica, has an MSc in Organisational Change from Ashridge Business School and is skilled in organisation design and development. She is also a qualified coach, and leads many of our organisational change programmes – from strategic development right through to activation.

Find out more about Miranda

Transcript: How to speed up the decision making process within an organisation

00.00 How to improve the speed of decision making

Hello, my name is Miranda. I’m Director of Organisational Change here at Rubica.

This is the next video in the series around team resilience, and today’s video is on how to improve decision-making approaches to help build team resilience and performance during periods of pressure and change.

00.21 What this video will cover

Here at Rubica, we’ve been running team resilience programmes for over five years and we’ve taken a deep dive into our survey data from each team that we’ve worked with. From this we know that one of the key challenges is the speed of decision making. This is a common challenge for many teams. So, in this video we are looking at why is there a delay and we’re going to be offering some top tips to address this. Make sure you stay to the end because we have a downloadable tool kit to help you address this challenge if it’s a reality for you.

00.58 The impact of ineffective decision making

What’s interesting about our data is even in organisations that rate themselves as high-performing 62% of people do not agree that the speed of decision making is effective within their organisation. In addition to that 65% of people because of this, feel that they can’t move important work forward at the pace that they require.

We know that one of the attributes of high performing people and teams is the ability to move important work forward at pace. And this is why effective and agile decision-making is such a critical component of highly resilient teams and organisations.

So decision-making and the effectiveness and agility of decision-making is important to all the key building blocks of resilience. Just to remind you what these are it’s clarity; formal support mechanisms; experimentation and continuous improvement to drive that edge; and finally a collective responsibility to taking and making decisions that are going to impact in the way that you want.

02.14 The common causes for ineffective decision making

Okay. So let’s take a deeper dive into why is decision-making so delayed across multiple organisations, even those who deem themselves as high performing. The first and foremost reason is due to a hierarchical culture. And this is really reflected in your approach to decision making. We often refer to who is the ‘HIPPO’ – the highest paid person in the room and how our decisions are orientating around them.

So if you have a cross representative group of people in a room trying to come to a decision, each one of them is offering their opinion and the final person to speak is the HIPPO, the highest paid person in the room and their decision goes – that is the final decision. This is an example of a hierarchical culture and how it’s impacting on your decision making. In addition to this, also very common is in organisations who are risk averse and therefore the sign off processes are multiple. For each and every one of us to go and get decisions signed off, it has to go through so many layers that the decision is delayed particularly if the ultimate decision maker has multiple decisions to make that’s the bottleneck that we all refer to.

The second reason why decision making is often delayed particularly in matrix teams is because of an over collaborative approach and this is because teams either functional or matrix teams have not had an open conversation about the optimal approach to decision-making at the start of their project.

What this ends up in is having too many owners around a decision, which delays moving it forward.

04.10 Top tip 1 for improving decision making

So now we want to talk about how you can work with your team’s to improve the speed and the effectiveness of your decision-making. And the first slide really looks at the approaches, the different approaches you can take to decision making.

And our number one recommendation is that use some information like this to share with your teams and discuss in an open and honest way how you are currently approaching decision making and how you want to improve it.

We most often meet teams who are stuck in the first two approaches, to decision-making.  Hierarchical decision-making I’ve already referred to, but the other one is collective decision making this is particularly common for matrix teams.

And this is where a cross representative group of people get in the room and there are no formal lines or informal reporting lines.

So there is no hierarchy in the room and we fall back on collective decision making. This is very time consuming and very ineffective and delays decision-making.

Therefore our top tip is if you want to move to a more speedier decision making model, you need to introduce either ‘expert’ or ‘collegiate’ decision-making processes. ‘Expert’ decision making is quite quick and easy. Who is the most obvious expert in the room to make the decision?

If this is a decision that really does have a clear link to an expertise that is quite quick and easy to make and you may be able to say for these key milestones for any project, this is the appropriate expert to make the decision at that given time.

’Collegiate’ is harder, but very well worthwhile considering. In ‘Collegiate’ decision making the team leader takes the ownership for the decision, but does so with clear consultation with appropriate members of the team. So again, you may have to discuss which type of decision you’re talking about, you can adopt this approach. But the more often you would adopt these approaches, the more likely is to become something that you become more familiar with and confident about using. Each of these approaches do have watch outs, which are going to be clearly documented in the toolkit. But each of them also has a significant opportunity.

So in summary our first top tip is consider ‘Expert’ and ‘Collegiate’ decision-making as a way to improve the speed of decision-making within your team.

06.50 Top tip 2 for improving decision making

The second top tip we’ve got is how well do you contract with the decision-maker owner?

So what we’ve noticed in working with numerous teams over the years is that teams often contract at quite a high level around roles and responsibilities and they use a simple technique such as RASCI to do this which talks about who’s responsible, who’s accountable, maybe what support you need, who’s consulted and who’s informed. But that really skims over actually who owns the decision.

So what we advise is when decision making isn’t effective, it isn’t speedy, start using RAPID as a model to really nail who is a decision maker owner at the beginning and have those honest and open conversations rather than assume this will become clear later.

RAPID is a really good tool to use because it actually has the ‘D’ within the acronym. So, who’s responsible, who’s accountable, who does the performance actually end with within the team, also who needs to be informed, but ultimately the ‘D’ – who is decision maker? And having these conversations earlier on drives a clarity we need for high performing teams and resilient organisations. And the sooner we do it the more likely the team are to move forward doing the important work that they want to do rather than get delayed due to confusion and due to potential conflict because the decision maker isn’t clear.

08.35 Top tip 3 for improving decision making

Our third and final tip is actually challenging yourself around your own ability to drive effective and rapid decision-making. Each and every one of us is a decision maker and there are things that we already have within our approach that support that process and there’s other things that we may be less aware of that are actually impacting our colleagues, teams, organisations in how we make decisions.

So our final part of the toolkit is actually giving you a structured approach to coaching yourself through your own decision-making effectiveness.

We have seven steps that really form effective decision-making and what we suggest you do is look through these and ask yourself which one of these am I really strong at, and which other steps would I like to improve at? That’s your own self-perception. To be truly good at self-coaching around decision making, you now need to ask your colleagues what their opinion is, what their perception is. So, go through the seven steps with them and compare their feedback to your own. Where is it the same? Where does everybody agree that you’re strong at decision making? And where are the gaps that are really emerging through that process?

Once you’ve done that, set your actions within the context of the role. Okay, really what could I do over the next four to six weeks to actively improve how I approach decisions? And how will my colleagues know that that is what I’m doing? What is the evidence of that success? What are the indicators that show your colleagues, role model to your colleagues that you really are improving your decision-making processes.

10.23 Summary

So, in conclusion delayed decision making is a very common challenge across teams and across organisations.

Even in organisations who deem themselves as high-performing. We recommend you really understand why your decision making is delayed, and use different approaches to experiment, to speed it up.

In addition, we really recommend that you create a time and place with your team to discuss it so you can have an open transparent conversation around the why, the what, and the how you’re going to improve things.

Download the toolkit by clicking on the link after this video, and if you want to know more, please get in touch with Rubica through the contact details that are listed below (miranda@rubica.co.uk). Thank you.

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