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Forbes: Six Simple Decision Practice Metrics To Kill Bad Meetings And Emails

Erik Larson Jan 25, 2017 10:54:53 PM

Business leadership is largely about judgment and decisiveness. So it's no surprise that a Bain & Company study found that decision practices drive 95% of business performance. The real surprise is that we do such a bad job keeping track of our decisions and how they turn out!

What gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed gets better. But companies don't measure decision practices, so decision making stays slow, inefficient and stuck in the past. In the end, our old decision practices are why our calendars are crammed with endless meetings and our inboxes are flooded with 100s of burning emails. 

The fact is you have to measure decision practices to make them better. Without metrics, you won’t get your decisions done better and faster. Instead, you’ll spend another year cramming in more meetings and firing off more emails.

Six Simple Decision Practice Metrics

How do you measure decision practices, especially if you’re starting from scratch like most companies?  Cloverpop is an online platform for tracking, communicating and improving decisions. Our research shows there are six key metrics to track for decision success:

1) How many people participated in each decision? Count everyone who attended a meeting or was part of a significant email/chat discussion related to the decision. Research shows that decision-making works best with 5 to 6 people, so you can create a quick dashboard:

Number Of Participants Dashboard What To Do
1 to 2 YELLOW Involve more people affected by the decision.
3 to 7 GREEN Way to go, team!
8 to 15 YELLOW Find a better way.
16 or more RED Seek professional help.

2) How many alternatives were considered? Only count alternatives that were written down somewhere – in an email, a presentation, meeting notes, a whiteboard. Research shows that doubling the number of alternatives reduces failure by 50% and increases the chances of a good decision by 6 times, so you can create another little dashboard:

Number Of Alternatives Dashboard   What To Do
1 RED Seriously? Hey, don’t feel bad! This happens for about 40% of business decisions.
2 or 3 YELLOW   Almost there.
4 or more GREEN   Bingo!

3) How aligned were decisions with business goals? Decisions are how goals get done. So start by writing down your top business goals. Then for each decision, count the number of goals that will be positively affected.
Framing decisions too narrowly is one of the worst decision biases, so use goals to take a broader view. Here is a simple dashboard, based on data from the Cloverpop business decision database:

Number Of
Dashboard What To Do
0 to 1 RED Think more broadly about the goals of your team.
2 to 4 YELLOW Think more broadly about the affects of the decision.
5 or more GREEN Like a boss!

4) How well were decisions communicated? Decisions never happen in a vacuum. If communication doesn’t fill the vacuum, then rumors will.   Score each decision with one point for each of the following:

  • It was communicated in writing
  • It was communicated to everyone affected
  • It included the reasons why
  • It included the other choices considered
  • It included the names of the people involved

Communication Score Dashboard What To Do
0 to 1 RED Unless you're a jedi, you're in a tough spot.
2 to 3 YELLOW Do. Or do not. There is no try.
4 to 5 GREEN The Force is with you!

5) How much are people bought into decisions? Decision making happens in teams, and decision execution does, too. Buy-in is critical for execution. To track this, either do a simple poll immediately after each decision, or do your own rating of how well people buy into the decision, on a scale from 0 to 10:

Buy-In Rating Dashboard What To Do
0 to 4 RED You may think you made a decision, but it ain’t happening. Try again.
5 to 6 YELLOW Keep your ears open and prepare to adjust.
7 to 10 GREEN Full steam ahead!

6) How did decisions turn out? Here’s the key step – checking the results of your decisions. Cloverpop keeps us on task by giving us set reminders on when we should reevaluate our decisions and their results to date. If you are doing this manually, look back at decisions after about six to eight weeks, and rate whether they missed, met or exceeded expectations. This is also a great time to write down what you learned, reinforce the decision if it’s going well or change direction if needed. Once you track ten or so decisions, you can start another dashboard:

Results Meet/Exceed Expectations Dashboard What To Do
0 to 49% RED Uh oh. Most do better than this...
50 to 69% YELLOW Not perfect. Not bad. Figure out why.
70% or higher GREEN Gold star!

What Happens If You Track These Decision-Making Metrics

Managers make 40 to 50 significant business decisions each year,  so you have plenty of chances to measure your decision making, learn, and make it better. Our research shows that better decision making improves overall manager performance by 20%.

We’ve kept careful track of these and other more advanced decision making metrics at our company for the past several. Here are the metrics from our last 10 decisions:

Decision-Making Metric Dashboard Average Score
Participants GREEN 6 people involved
Alternatives GREEN 6 alternatives considered
Goals GREEN 9 goals affected
Communication GREEN 5 points - perfect score!
Buy-In GREEN 10 out of 10 (ok, really 9.8)
Results GREEN 83% meet/exceed expectations

That clear green dashboard does more than drive better decisions, it also eliminates wasted time in meetings and emails and improves team alignment. When every decision is clearly communicated, employee engagement and business performance skyrocket. And when the results of every decision is tracked, nothing slips through the cracks.

It turns out if you measure and improve a fundamental activity like your company's decision practices, not only do the practices get better, but your entire business improves.

Your dashboard might not start out green, but you can get there. And if your company uses Cloverpop you can get there a lot faster -- our solution helps you decide twice as fast with half the meetings and 100 percent visibility.

So get a demo today,  and see how you can measure your decision practices, and make them better!

An earlier version of this blog post was published in Forbes.