To be a manager is to make countless individual decisions for which you will personally be held responsible and accountable. However, in most organizations managers collectively are also required to occasionally come together at various levels to decide and implement decisions that will impact their entire organization simultaneously. It is these latter collective decisions that I refers to as “CORPORATE”.
In this series of six articles I lay out a step by step process for corporate decision making that my experience has demonstrated both helps groups arrive at and implement sounder decisions, and provides the sort of management accountability for their decisions any organization has the right to expect from those in charge. I suggest reading them in order because each step builds on what comes before.
STEP FOUR: MEASURING RESULTS
Step four represents a critical juncture in the corporate decision making process, where the process itself often begins to break down. Even with a decision in hand and unanimous support, absent some clear criteria by which the group can judge whether the decision has actually achieved its desired intent, drawing conclusions amounts to a guess. This conjures up the well-worn phrase “that if you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there”?
Thus step four involves a group discussion designed to identify a finite set of indicators that would signal that the decision is having the desired impact. It is also helpful to consider a set of indicators that would provide early warning that the decision is either off track or producing unintended or unforeseen consequences.
In many businesses, enterprises and organizations these measurements as indicators of impact for many decisions are easily quantifiable. Profits, sales numbers, margin increases, productivity increases, dollar savings, recruitment statistics, etc. are easy to track and offer a fair degree of concrete evidence.
Yet all organizations make many decisions such as reorganizations, adoption of new methodologies and work practices, job classification changes, pay adjustments, training and R&D investments, layoffs and key personnel assignments, the impact of which usually resist reduction to concrete numerical results. That it is challenging to agree upon precise success indicators in these instances, however, is no excuse for refusing to do so.
Every sound corporate decision should have some desired end at its core. Thus, a great place to begin during the decision meeting is with the simple question — “ideally, what would that end look like”? As implementation of a decision progresses, new success indicators may emerge suggesting additions or a change in focus. But waiting for this to happen suggests that a decision was initially made with no clear end result in mind; not the image you want to convey to your organization.
It is not difficult to imagine a group debate over these success indicators, with those members who favored a different decision arguing that their preferred option would have produced the same results, or that these results would probably have happened on their own. But such metaphysical discussions are but another means for re-litigating old arguments, postponing implementation action and are a waste of time. The most effective corporate decision making groups insist on focus discipline at this point.
Beyond the obvious advantage of the decision makers themselves knowing what they are looking for, having a set of measurements or indicators to communicate to the organization at large signals a seriousness of purpose and intent to follow-up and ensure achievement of the desired results. Corporate decisions — like those of individual managers — are essentially acts of faith. That is, they/we believe our decision is the right thing to do but will only know that our judgment was sound when we have implemented the decision and assessed the results. Yet another reason to have some logical sense of what we are looking for before implementation begins.
The group’s Process Monitor — who should attend both the discussion and decision meetings — is responsible for recording all these deliberations, as this information will become core ingredients in the next step of an effective corporate decision making process.