Listen to Les McKeown read this blog post:
As we’ve discussed previously, the core of growth and sustained scalability lies in a seemingly simple act: making good decisions. Make (and implement) more good decisions than bad, and you win. Make more bad decisions than good, you lose.
Decision-making takes place all the time, and at every level throughout an organization, right down to the front line. But the most important decisions – at least in terms of strategic impact – take place at the very top. So, how can you know if your senior team has got what it takes to consistently make and implement high-quality decisions?
Simply put, how can you be sure that they have ‘the right stuff’?
Well, you could lay out a bunch of money to run an exhaustive range of psychometric tests, or engage in lengthy scenario planning exercises, or hire an outside consultant to undertake a detailed 360 assessment of your team – all valid exercises.
But, before you do, consider this: simply watching your team’s interactions for 10 minutes or so – under the right conditions – will give you most of the information you need to form a conclusion as to their decision-making abilities.
I spend most of my time helping executive teams work together, and here’s the simple 2-step exercise I use to identify a team's propensity for high-quality team-based decision-making:
1. Ask the group an important, but not-so-obvious, question.
Ask your team something that doesn’t have an obvious answer, but which is material and important – “What’s the likeliest external threat to next year’s growth goals?", for example, or “What would we need do if our two biggest competitors merged?”
The key is to ask something that’s highly strategic, and which no one member of the team can answer alone – a question that affects all parts of the organization, and thus requires team interaction to get to the right answer.
2. Observe the group dynamic as they talk through the issue.
As you watch your team respond, their interaction will tend toward one of four dynamics:
Everyone turns to the group leader and waits for him or her to answer. This is the weakest team dynamic, and produces the least effective decision-making. It occurs either when the MSE (most senior executive - maybe you?) simply talks too much and/or quashes disagreement, and has essentially trained everyone else on the team to be quiet, and/or the MSE has built a weak team.
One or two outspoken individuals will opine, usually with little cohesion or overlap in their views. In this dynamic one or two people (usually the same individuals in every meeting) have built enough 'sweat equity' with the MSE that they can make their views known, but those views are typically protective of their own 'turf' and are rarely challenged by others.
Most everyone will chime in, but contributions are more or less independent of each other. In this dynamic most everyone in the team vocalizes, but contributions are usually little other than the expression of individual opinion with little constructive discussion, idea exploration or enquiry. This results in long meetings that are filled with monologues and with little genuine discussion and interaction.
There is a rich discussion during which team members engage with each other in an open, agenda-free manner. In this dynamic there will often be some heat and disagreement, but through an open and frank exchange the group will self-identify a balanced and informed response to the underlying issue.
The closer your team's dynamic is to the fourth pattern (Diversity - i.e. a rich, engaged debate), the more likely it is that your team is capable of consistently making and implementing high-quality decisions.
The closer the dynamic is to the first option (Deference - dumbly awaiting the group leader’s view), the more you’re in trouble.
(By the way, the process I describe above works best if there's an outside facilitator involved, but you can successfully facilitate it yourself so long as you resist the temptation to 'push the discussion along'. Just ask the open-ended question and wait patiently to see what happens.)
What about you? How effective do you believe your team is in making good-quality decisions? Which of the four dynamics - Deference, Dominance, Dissonance or Diversity - does your team most exhibit?