The ability to make decisions efficiently is an essential success factor for companies, regardless of the industry they are operating in; the faster a company is able to form shared views and rate ideas, the faster it can react and adapt to changes.
Business Technology is a strategy for organizing and coordinating technology management across the organization. It requires companies to take a holistic view on development and therefore it is essential to engage experts from different parts of the organization in the decision-making process.
With traditional methods, decision-making slows down when key decision-makers’ calendars are fully booked months ahead. There are three typical challenges;
CHALLENGE 1: LACK OF SHARED TIME
Surprisingly often, an organization has a relatively small group of experts – the “usual suspects” – that is asked to express their opinions on technology related matters throughout the organization. Not that surprisingly, these key experts become easily overbooked – after all, everyone wants to make decisions rapidly since Business Technology affects many parts of the organization.
Therefore, the need for speed is actually slowing down the decision-making process, which again increases the need for speed even further. Meanwhile, the more agile competitors have probably already made the decisions, while others are still searching for empty slots in their calendars.
CHALLENGE 2: INEFFICIENT (AND EXPENSIVE) MEETINGS
Once the key people finally do get together to discuss about important topics requiring decisions, the meetings are often inefficient, and the shared time is not well spent. Often people without required competences are invited to the meetings just in case and the total cost of a single meeting is rarely calculated. And since many experts spend their days sitting in meetings just in case, they don’t have shared time for the meetings where they are really needed.
CHALLENGE 3: LACK OF SHARED VIEWS
Reaching rapid decisions requires that participants have been engaged in discussions, they have been able to reach a shared understanding on the matters at hand, and that they have committed to common goals.
Since proper facilitation methods are rarely used in daily meetings and workshops, participants might leave the room without a shared understanding and decisions are then made without proper commitment. Often the lack of shared time and inefficient meetings are actually causing the lack of shared view since the group doesn’t have enough time to concentrate on the essentials. As a result, the decisions may exist on paper, but they’re not properly applied into daily practices.
THREE WAYS TO IMPROVE DECISION-MAKING FACILITATION
1) Split large decisions into smaller, human-sized decision points
In general, it’s easier to reach small decisions than bigger ones. Try to split large decision items into smaller decision points that you bring to the table one by one, by choosing the suitable facilitation methods in advance.
This way, lengthy meetings can be avoided, and smaller decision are made sooner and more easily. In addition, capabilities to faster react to changes and see the big picture increase.
2) Involve only the right people.
It’s far easier to steer a smaller group of people than a bigger one. Make sure to involve only the key people needed in each phase – do not invite anyone ”just in case” neither in workshops nor online discussions. While most digital collaboration services allow large groups to join discussions, they rarely support facilitation methods which are essential for reaching common understanding and commitment. Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.
Channels like Yammer, MS Teams and Slack are very good at spreading the word, getting final comments from a larger audience and informing about progress. However, they’re not made for professional facilitation. Usually the best results are created by mixing different tools and channels according to the situation.
3) Facilitate time and place independently
Often, finding a suitable calendar slot for a meeting takes more time than the decision item itself. In the digital era, collaborative decision-making doesn’t need to depend on time or place. People can contribute to the decision-making no matter where they are located and when it best suits their calendars. Using time and place independent online facilitation solutions between (and even instead of) meetings is more efficient use of limited time and decreases company’s travel expenses.
It goes without saying that tools alone won’t solve this. What matters are both facilitation expertise and, perhaps even more a lively culture of sharing in the organization. In case the employees don’t see value in sharing their knowledge internally – or they’re afraid of doing so – it becomes difficult to get people participating in online collaboration or decision-making no matter which facilitation trick you might bring to the table.
Sofigate utilizes Roundtable throughout a wide range of Business Technology assignments led by professional facilitators. Roundtable brings together the best elements of workshop facilitation methods, social media environments, and agile principles – regardless of time and place. You can read more about Roundtable here.
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The ability to make decisions efficiently is an essential success factor for companies, regardless of the industry they are in. The faster a company is able to form shared views and rate ideas, the faster it can react and adapt to changes. As complexity increases, reaching decisions typically requires the input of various experts, which makes the decision making process slower. How to break bottle necks in decision making?
Decision making in companies is becoming more collective than before, and decisions typically require opinions from various experts across the organization. In order to reach a decision quickly, a common view needs to be formed efficiently.
As the number of participants increases, decision making becomes more complex and thus slower. There is more information available than ever to support decisions; it can be acquired more easily and at a lower cost than before. The easy access to information does not mean that people would not play the main role in decision making – on the contrary. If you want people to commit themselves to the decisions, you need to make sure that everyone has truly been able to participate in the decision making process.
How to make decisions both collectively and as efficiently as possible? Forming shared views becomes more efficient by using facilitation methods, by including only relevant people in the decision making process – and by rethinking the whole decision making forum, with the help of digital tools.
1. Split large decision items into smaller, human-sized decision points.
In general, it is easier to reach small decisions than bigger ones. Try to split large decision items into into smaller decision points that you bring to the table one by one, by choosing the suitable facilitation methods in advance. This way, lengthy meetings can be avoided and you will reach the decision sooner.
The step-by-step approach gives you concrete results along the way. You will be able to react to changes faster and see the big picture more easily.
2. Involve only the right people.
Reaching just the right decisions requires that the participants have a shared understanding on the matters – for example pros, cons, consequences, risks, opportunities and so on. If they do not, they will not commit themselves to the decision.
It is far easier to steer a smaller group of people than a bigger one. Make sure to involve only the people needed in each phase – do not invite anybody ”just in case”, not even to virtual meetings.
3. Instead of shared time, find a shared channel.
Often, finding the suitable calendar slot for the meeting takes more time than the decision item itself. Even when the meeting is set, the agenda might need to be reset as someone cancels at the last minute.
During the digital era, collaborative decision making does not need to depend on time or place. Thanks to new tools, busy key people can participate in the decision making no matter where they are located, when it suits them the best.
In our daily work at Sofigate, we use an online service called Roundtable that brings together the best sides of facilitation methods and social media. It requires from the decision makers only a daily engagement of 15 minutes, whenever they have the time.
Time and place-independent online tools make collaborative decision making more efficient and also bring down the costs, as potential travel expenses decrease.
However, professional facilitation, management skills and promoting trust can not be replaced by any tools. When the working environment feels safe, people are willing to share their expertise collectively and are more likely to reach good decisions – no matter what the decision forum is.
If you had to mention one thing describing the era of digitalization, what would it be? I'd say the need for speed. Competition tightens and changes within industries happen faster than ever before. For decision making this obviously means that decisions should be made quicker - and hopefully just the right decisions.
To ensure the decision really is the right one, managers and directors need to gather insight from the substance experts - no one want's to make a decision without knowing enough about the matter. In this sense the digital era increases the need for collective decision making - for example the CMO, the CTO, the CIO (and / or the CDO) and the CEO need to co-operate efficiently to reach the best decisions.
In general there are at least three challenges characterizing collective decision making in the digital era:
Lack of shared time
Because of the need for speed, the key experts are too busy to give proper input to the decision making. Meanwhile the management struggles in getting the key people round the same table and therefore the need for speed is actually slowing down the decision making which again increases the need for speed. The cycle is ready and in the meantime the risk for a delayed decision increases. The more agile competitor has probably already made the decision while the others are still searching for empty slots in their calendars.
Inefficient (and expensive) meetings
If the management happens to get the key people together to discuss about important topics requiring decisions, the meetings are often inefficient and the shared time is not very well spent. Often people without required expertise are invited to the meetings just in case and the total cost of a single meeting is rarely calculated. On the other hand digital devices often get more attention than the actual meeting topic. Bad meetings is a popular theme for blogs and articles - my earlier post stresses the importance of proper facilitation.
Lack of shared views
In deciding on complex matters, numerous experts with different backgrounds and agendas need to work efficiently together. Reaching just the right decisions requires that the participants have shared understanding on the matters - for example pros, cons, consequences, risks, opportunities and so on. Since proper facilitation methods are rarely used in (management) meetings, the participants might leave the room without a shared understanding and the decisions are then made without proper commitment. Often the lack of shared time and inefficient meetings are actually causing the lack of shared view since the group doesn't have enough time to concentrate on the essentials.
What can be done differently?
Obviously decision making varies between organizations and some of them are more developed when it comes to digitalization. Still generally speaking it's easier to make small decisions than large decisions. Splitting the large decision items into smaller human sized decision points helps to retain the agility in the decision making and allows one to constantly identify and rate the best ideas - which is essential in gaining competitive advantage in the digital era.
It's also easier to reach a decision involving small group of people instead of a large one. Therefore involving only the right people makes it easier to come up with shared understanding about the matter - also leading to higher commitment to the decisions. While digital services and tools allow managers to involve large groups into collective work, involving just the right individuals often brings the best ROI.
Using time and place independent online solutions between (and even instead of) the meetings helps to better leverage the limited time. Proper online facilitation combines the open discussions with ratings and prioritizations and valuations allowing the key people to give their input when they have the time (where ever they are located) as well as identify the best ideas.