…a Function of Context”
It occurs to me as I reflect on the last few months there exists a glowing opportunity to improve our collective ability to make more effective business decisions. In the last few months, leaders have been bombarded with reams of data and information about the pandemic. In the last few months, leaders have also misinterpreted or misunderstood the difference between good information and total BS bringing the title quote from Stephen R. Covey to mind.
If we agree that effective decision-making is a crucial soft skill (it is!) for leaders to have, then we have to also agree it is crucial to having the full understanding of how to do it well. In today’s fast paced, technology-infused world we live and work in, it is critical for leaders to cut through the noise and make effective knowledge-based decisions. In our experience, these guiding principles apply when making key business decisions!
- Know the Basics ~ Over the course of my corporate career, I’ve certified on Total Quality Management (TQM), the Total Quality Institute (TQI) and Six Sigma Green Belt. It was never my intent to be a quality management professional. Rather, I invested in these efforts to become a better decision maker; a better leader. If terms like Mode, Mean, Median, Outliers, Histogram and Pareto Chart are not in a leader’s vocabulary, the leader’s decisions may be skewed and/or flawed based on misunderstanding the data involved in the decisions. A corollary to this is trusting the sources of the data used to make key decisions. Before the pandemic, how many strategic business decisions were made based on mainstream media and social media? Likely, few if any. Yet why are they influential now?
- Compared to What? ~ Raw data is fundamentally useless until it is organized into information using tools like spreadsheets, databases, charts, etc. The leadership decision-making challenge is not stopping there. Information is continuously paraded out as the end-all answer, but without any point of reference for context. If a business states they grew 10% year over year, at face value that sounds like good growth. However, if their industry grew 16% year over year, the conclusion is very different! Knowledge, the basis for any crucial leadership decision can only be created when information is put into some context and given meaning. We live in an information-rich, knowledge-poor world so the importance of making time to understand context cannot be overstated!
- Perfection is a Myth ~ A key obstacle to effective leadership decision-making is the need to have all the information necessary to make the perfect decision. Forget it! Today’s businesses run on constantly evolving risk-reward curves. Even when all the data is properly organized using the right tools and the right context is known, there will likely still be a downside to the decision! But that’s what effective leaders do, make the best knowledge-based decisions knowing full well they are not perfect when they’re made. Additionally, the original decision will likely be altered or changed in some way as new information is processed. One of the best pieces of advice I received as a new executive was to make good B+ decisions. When 85% or so of the information is known, make the call and adjust on the fly. Doing that at today’s pace of business is where effective leadership resides!
We don’t disagree on the facts. We disagree on the interpretation of the facts. In the Business Alignment Maturity Model (BAMM) we use in our coaching practice, Layer 7 speaks to the Scientific Methods necessary to make effective business decisions. Underneath each of the four quadrants of the Balanced Scorecard discussed in the model are metrics all grounded in what we’ve addressed in this discussion. To the extent leaders leverage these tools will contribute directly to the sustainable success of their business!
How are you creating knowledge for your next key leadership decision?