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.