We used to expect businesses to last a lifetime, but digital transformation is a mass-extinction event for old corporations and a mass-creation event for new ones. It has changed everything. For instance, consider data from S&P, which predicts half the S&P 500 will disappear in the next decade.
The digital transformation to the future of work needs to focus on decision practices. Effective decision practices drive 95% of business performance, according to Bain & Company. They also drive 50% of employee engagement, according to UK Institute for Employment Studies.
Yet companies have a bizarre blind spot. Even though decisions are most important business information in any organization, they are strangely the last information to be digitized.
In effect, decisions are stuck in the past, untracked and unmanaged, still relying on tangles of meetings, emails (i.e. memos) and presentations. Everything else about work has changed dramatically, but bring a top-hatted railroad baron from 1850 into a typical decision-making meeting today and he’d feel right at home.
Misalignments and miscommunications may seem like an unavoidable result of a rapidly changing world. But work doesn’t have to be that way. For example, here's how closing the digital decision gap addresses three ubiquitous business challenges: cat herding and meeting overload, rehashing and re-ligating and corporate amnesia.
1) Flip from cat herding and meeting overload to focused problem solving
Modern work is done in teams. When it comes to decisions, that’s a great thing. According to our research, teams make better decisions 66% of the time, because they bring together different perspectives to improve decision making and help to drive buy-in and execution.
However, collective thinking brings with it the cat-herding problem, a phenomena executives experience when struggling to wrangle the right people to make key decisions. And when people are busy, meetings are hard to schedule and discussions get fragmented.
To avoid cat herding problems, executives used to pre-sell a specific recommendation before group meetings and build political capital to beat objections and win arguments, just like 1850s railroad barons. But today’s world moves far too fast for that to be effective any longer. Neither the executives nor the cats have that kind of time.
Instead, a better way to avoid cat herding is to quickly share perspectives and questions in advance. Framing decisions in writing in a shared digital summary flips the decision-making process from an influence game to a problem-solving effort, removing politics and emotions from meetings and driving better decisions twice as fast.
2) Pound the gavel on rehashing and re-litigating
Leaders intuitively know that the decisions made by your executives and managers are critical for business. Action-oriented leaders are trained to decide and move on. And so nothing is more frustrating than the delays and confusion caused by constantly reopening decisions.
In the hierarchical past, bosses could put an end to rehashing within their organizations by throwing their weight around, and they expected the same from their bosses. But today’s matrixed, team-driven, multi-generational world is too complex for that to work. A mix of people needs to be able to disagree and debate to get to a better decision, and then commit to making it happen.
Because modern decisions no longer live only in bosses’ heads, this new reality demands a single source of truth for what was decided, who was involved and why the decision was made. Without a such a record, it’s inevitable that fuzzy made-in-the-room decisions get rehashed when the group hits challenges, or relitigated by dissenters with an ax to grind. Decision churn leads to execution heartburn.
A shared digital record closes the case on the what, why and who of past decisions, saving time and keeping everyone on the same page.
3) Forget about corporate amnesia
Leaders have been tracking and measuring various aspects of business for a long time. It’s understood that what gets measured gets managed, and that useful information should be saved and shared for future reference. So isn’t it odd that decisions aren’t consistently communicated and tracked as well?
Slow-moving hierarchical companies had less need to manage how decisions were communicated and tracked because each siloed group was much more self-contained and made fewer decisions. The boss was the source of truth, so whether or not they forgot what was decided and why, the responsibility for results was clear. Today’s leaders of fast-moving matrixed organizations need a better way to keep people in the loop and also create quick feedback loops to make sure results go as expected.
Without a system of record for decisions, corporate amnesia sets in. Decisions are poorly communicated beyond the immediate decision team. Employees forget what was decided and why. Managers lose track of how decisions turn out.
With a shared digital record, leaders can drive precise execution and quickly find and fix weak links. If a decision doesn’t perform as expected, the people involved can adjust. Consulting past decisions saves time and protects against making the same mistake twice. Tracking decisions makes organizations more agile.
Mind The Decision Gap
Closing the digital decision gap solves these three pitfalls and many others. It creates a record for future reference, empowers leadership to communicate beyond the decision-making team, and tracks decisions to close the execution loop and ultimately improve performance. To focus your efforts, a decision practices assessment can help you pinpoint where to start.
The digital decision gap is holding us back. It slows down innovation, leaves people out of the loop, and makes it difficult to find and fix execution problems before things go off the rails. This is important because decisions are fundamental to business performance. Closing the decision gap is an urgent leadership challenge that must be a part of any digital transformation strategy.
By creating a single source of truth for decisions, leaders like you can gain a powerful digital tool to fix misalignments and miscommunications and help your organization adapt to a rapidly changing digital world.