Top 5 symptoms of sluggish decision-making at organizations
By Edmond Mellina
In my previous article, I explained what makes the DCI framework (also known as DAI) the best decision-making model to drive agility.
But how can you tell your organization’s decision-making is sluggish – in other words NOT nimble. Again, this discussion is not about big strategic decisions – they are few and far between. Instead, it is about the gazillions of decisions businesses make throughout the year.
Symptom #1 – Escalation
Decisions that should be made at lower levels are being escalated to higher levels.
When this occurs systematically throughout the organization, what does it say about the corporate culture? In essence, it says that people at all levels are afraid of making mistakes.
Lower levels escalate because they don’t want to be blamed if things go wrong. As for higher levels, the reason for accepting the escalation is simple: they don’t trust that their people can make good decisions. They believe they know better. There is no empowerment.
Symptom #2 – Swirl
Decisions are made… but after a while, they are revisited despite the fact the situation hasn’t materially changed. Decisions seem to be caught in a swirl: they are made… but they come back; they are made… but they come back.
Here again, the root cause is a corporate culture that is afraid of mistakes; and that has no confidence in its decision-making.
Symptom #3 – Wing clipping
In this case, decisions are made at the right level in the organization. There is no sluggish escalation. But take a closer look and you will see that decision makers have to follow a plethora of rules. On top of it, they are receiving too much direction from higher-ups. In other words, their sandbox is super tiny. They are being micro-managed. Their wings are being clipped.
What does it say about the corporate culture? Again, that people are afraid of making mistakes. Also, that there is no trust. Bottom line: fake empowerment – which is even worst that no empowerment at all!
Symptom #4 – Throwing under the bus
In this scenario, decision makers are empowered. However, if upper-management – e.g. a senior executive or someone from global headquarters – challenge the decision, decision makers are left to defend themselves, without support from local leadership. If I am such a decision maker, don’t be surprised if next time I escalate…
Clearly, throwing under the bus indicates a lack of leadership. As a result, there is no psychological safety. Who wants to work in such an environment?
Symptom #5 – Consensus
Finally, closing this Top-5 list, is an overreliance on consensus – which includes decision by committee.
For sure, the approach has some benefits: primarily avoiding decisions that are unbalanced and therefore extreme; and generating buy-in.
However, the disadvantages are huge. First, missing the best advice because of all the input you are getting to get to consensus. Second, lots of time wasted. Third, bad decisions or at least suboptimal ones.
By the way, when used properly, DCI/DAI ensure you avoid these problems while still getting the benefits.
Don’t end up like the proverbial Dodo
If any of these five symptoms are prevalent in your organization, decision-making is too slow for today’s world. In the new normal, being sluggish versus nimble is a sure way to end up like the proverbial Dodo… extinct!
Edmond Mellina, ORCHANGO’s president and co-founder, is internationally respected for his expertise in nimble change leadership and culture change. For the past 30 years, he has been executing strategic transformations, building agile capabilities, and coaching clients across sectors in Europe, North America and the Middle East.
He is a former corporate transformation executive in drastically changing industries: CIO at Delta Hotels when Expedia disrupted the hotel business; and VP Corporate Development & General Manager USA for the technology business of Envoy Communication Group when design and marketing agencies started to become digital.
Print this page
- Police: Worker sexually assaulted Iowa hospital patients before he died
- RBC Dominion Securities facing $800 million class-action suit over unpaid vacation, holiday pay on commissions