HomeTalentLeadership DevelopmentLeadership learnings: How to tackle the $250 million cost of ineffective decision-making

Leadership learnings: How to tackle the $250 million cost of ineffective decision-making

  • 6 Min Read

Ineffective decision-making costs organizations a staggering amount of time and wages each year. It also compromises the success of business transformation. Tirtha Chavan’s framework guides business teams and HR leaders toward proactive, data-informed decisions.

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According to a McKinsey study, for a typical Fortune 500 company, the opportunity costs of ineffective decision-making is about 530,000 days of managers’ time potentially squandered each year, equivalent to $250 million in wages annually. Thus, with the changing business landscape and rapid technological advancements, making informed decisions swiftly is imperative for the survival and success of any business.

As a business transformation leader, I have seen firsthand that decisions need to draw on the right blend of data-driven insights, intuition, and collaboration. I have also seen cost ineffective decision-making can have on the value business transformation delivers.

In this article, I present a framework that guides business teams and HR leaders toward proactive, data-informed decisions, ensuring sustained success in a competitive landscape and avoiding the eye-watering financial burden of ineffective decision-making.

1. Identify the decision to be made

  • Problem statement: Delve deep into the root cause. Is it a new technology, a new market threat, changing customer preferences, or an internal challenge? Ensure that the problem statement is well-defined and communicated across all levels. For example: Mobile application’s user retention rate has dropped by 15% over the last quarter.
  • Scope of decision: Determine the breadth and depth of the decision. Will it impact just one department or have company-wide implications? Understanding this helps allocate resources and time efficiently. For example: Is it specific to one product feature or the entire user experience?
  • Urgency and timeline: Distinguish between immediate fire-fighting decisions and long-term strategic ones. Set realistic yet firm deadlines to maintain momentum.

2. Decision-making lens/criteria

  • Objective metrics: Look at numbers such as employee productivity, employee retention, projected revenue, return on investment, customer growth percentages, or potential market capture. Use past data and future projections for a holistic view. For example: Restoring at least a 10% increase in customer retention over the next quarter.
  • Subjective metrics: Dive into the company’s mission and values. How does the decision align with the company’s identity and priorities? Assess the potential to spark innovation or enhance brand value. For example: How does it impact employee experience or customer centricity and support the company’s philosophy?
  • Weightage: Use tools like the Analytic Hierarchy Process to assign weights, ensuring that the most critical criteria have a dominant influence.

3. List the options and consider key considerations for each

  • Brainstorming: Promote a team culture of open dialogue. Utilize techniques like SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis to encourage comprehensive brainstorming with cross-functional teams.
  • Scenario planning: Use tools and simulations to play out different scenarios. This approach helps anticipate challenges and understand potential rewards. For example: What would be the impact of the technological trade-offs on end users?
  • Impact analysis: Beyond immediate effects, consider the long-term impact supported by data and research. For instance, how will the decision affect the company’s five-year vision, diversity metrics, or revenue?

4. Risk assessment & mitigation

  • Risk mapping: List all the risks and rank them based on severity and likelihood for each scenario.
  • Mitigation strategies: For high-priority risks, develop detailed action plans. This might involve diversifying resources, setting up rapid response teams, or investing in specific technologies.
  • Contingency plans: Always have an alternative strategy. If one pathway faces a roadblock, you should know how to pivot without significant delays.

5. Recommendation based on data, research, and competitive benchmark

  • Quantitative data: Integrate insights from various tools and systems to market analysis platforms. Also, consider historical data patterns. For example: User surveys indicate that 65% find the current UI non-intuitive or due to poor system performance, and 33% of users do not complete the order flow.
  • Qualitative research: Personal interviews can reveal on-ground challenges, while focus groups can provide broader perspectives. Expert panels can shed light on industry standards and innovations. For example: Interviews with select users reveal they often feel lost after software updates.
  • Market landscape: Identify industry standards and benchmarks for the technological and business metrics. It helps in understanding threats and uncovering opportunities.

6. Internal stakeholder map

  • Identification: Use tools like stakeholder maps to visualize the influence and interest of each party. Remember to consider both internal and external stakeholders. Apart from the internal team, stakeholders include daily software app users, premium subscribers, and even advertisers on the technology platform.
  • Prioritization: The Power-Interest grid can help categorize stakeholders into groups like ‘Keep Informed’ or ‘Manage Closely’. Premium subscribers, being a revenue source, might be higher on the priority list.
  • Engagement strategy: For high-priority internal stakeholders, regular check-ins, regular software product demos, and updates are crucial. For others, periodic newsletters, product launches, or latest-release updates might suffice.

7. Define RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) for decision-making and execution

  • Alignment: Ensure each role aligns with the person’s expertise and authority level. Identify key decision-makers who would consult and provide recommendations based on their areas of expertise. For example, strategic decisions might require C-suite involvement.
  • Efficiency: Streamlining roles ensures faster execution. Avoid overlapping responsibilities by regularly revisiting and updating the RACI matrix.
  • Ownership: It is about responsibility, passion, and drive. The individual should be committed to seeing the decision through to its last implication.

8. Decision made

  • Consensus vs. command: In collaborative environments, decisions may need broad consensus, while in hierarchical settings, top-down decisions might be the norm. Recognize your organization’s culture and identify a decision-maker.
  • Rationale: Clearly articulate the ‘why’ behind decisions. Detailed presentations, whitepapers, or even informal discussions can serve this purpose. Document the decisions made in the decision log and communicate to stakeholders that decisions were user-driven and in line with market trends.
  • Anticipate resistance: Engage with potential dissenters early. Understand their concerns and address them proactively. When some users resist change, explain why we are making the change. Plan a comprehensive FAQ and share the financial model, data research, and industry standards to explain the rationale behind the decision.

9. Next steps: Iterate, document and inform

  • Iterative approach: When new substantial data, technological trends, or insights emerge, teams can revisit decisions as agility in decision-making is an asset.
  • Documentation protocol: Document decisions made in the decision log along with the link to the data and research. Regularly update this documentation to reflect any changes or new insights. Carefully archive detailed design documents alongside user feedback reports.
  • Communication plan: Customize communication based on stakeholder groups. Frontline employees might need a different communication approach compared to senior managers or external partners.

The rising importance of strategic decision-making

A systematic, holistic, and collaborative approach, as outlined in this framework, ensures that decisions are strategic moves propelling the organization forward. As accelerated digital transformation, shifting employee expectations, and the AI paradigm shift push organizations to increase their agility, the strategic decision-making associated with successful change management becomes increasingly important. By consistently improving their decision-making capabilities, HR leaders can help businesses navigate challenges with clarity and confidence, positioning themselves for enduring success.

Tirtha Chavan is a global Customer-centric strategy and business transformation leader in the Software as a Service (SaaS) industry, boasting over a decade of expertise in unlocking value for millions of global customers, driving long-term strategic growth, operational excellence, and maximizing profitability for Fortune 500 organization. She is a member of the Forbes Council.

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