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 SIX: IMPLEMENTATION AND FOLLOWUP
“There is no such thing as a decision until you have implemented it. Otherwise it is just a lot of hot air.” TJ Busch
Sad but true, many an otherwise sound decision has foundered and ultimately faded into oblivion at this the final critical step in an effective corporate decision making process. To a large degree, a temporal and a cognitive reality lies at the heart of these failures.
While all of the previous steps in this six-part process are generally accomplished in a few weeks or less, Implementation and follow-up usually takes many weeks, months, perhaps years. This affords plenty of time for corporate attention to refocus on other important matters. It also provides those who disagreed with the decision the time to engage in the sort of foot-dragging and negotiating-the-how activities that often stretches out implementation unnecessarily. Eventually many decisions are either actually overcome by events or at least appear to have suffered this fate.
Thus, the final important activity at the end of a corporate decision meeting is for the decision makers themselves to map out a strategy and time frame designed to speed implementation and keep it on track. The strategy I have in mind consists of the answers to the following 4 questions:
1. WHO WILL BE RESPONSIBLE AND ACCOUNTABLE FOR IMPLEMENTATION?
Make this decision carefully. Give responsibility not only to the individual or individuals possessing the capability and capacity to exercise it but also the time it will require. Implementation responsibilities often are what are routinely referred to as “additional duties as assigned”. While there is sometimes an obvious choice because of the decision’s substance, these individuals may not always have the time required to give them their full attention. Choose wisely.
2. HOW LONG BEFORE THE DECISION’S IMPACT WILL INITIALLY BE ASSESSED?
Even the best intentioned decisions often have unintended consequences not easily foreseeable in advance. Thus an early sanity check often helps catch difficulties needing attention before they seriously impede implementation as a whole. Set a not to exceed date for this initial check and stick to it. Your success indicators may not be observable as yet but unintended consequences often are. Address them.
3. WHEN SHOULD THE DECISION’S DESIRED IMPACT BE OFFICIALLY EVALUATED?
This is a judgment call. It involves estimating a future time when signs of the decision’s desired impact should realistically be observable. Realism suggests giving the decision adequate time to manifest positive results. Pragmatism involves not letting things go on indefinitely in some vain hope of eventual success. Set a specific time for an official review of results and stick to it. If more than one official review becomes necessary, schedule it.
4. WHEN CAN VICTORY BE DECLARED OR DEFEAT ACKNOWLEDGED?
Another judgment call. The clear appearance of identified success indicators offers an obvious opportunity to declare that the decision has achieved most if not all of its intended objectives. The difficulty arrises when only partial indicators exist or none at all. The “when is enough, enough” question is more a matter of gut feeling than a defined moment in time. Moreover, a decision regarding when to give up the ghost should probably wait until the official re-evaluation discussed above is complete and all the evidence evaluated. Suffice to say, effective corporate decision making demands the courage to admit defeat in some cases and the common sense to move off in new directions.
It is the PROCESS MONITOR’s responsibility to record the group’s answers to these questions, periodically collect the required data and information from those responsible for implementation and schedule the necessary discussion meetings to evaluate progress and results. In this role, the Process Monitor serves the vital function of dragging corporate attention back to the decisions they have made and to what has happened as a consequence. It is upon their judgment regarding when a discussion needs to take place on which the decision makers must rely. Thus select the Process Monitor with care regarding their demonstrated leadership, organizational talents, initiative, interpersonal skills, and comfort speaking reality to those in power.
It is almost impossible to know that any decision will be a grand success prior to its implementation. But careful attention to the details of implementation and to the follow-up actions and adjustments that become necessary, certainly increases the prospects for success.