How to scale decision-making – Mark MacLeod

August 25, 2020 - Mark MacLeod

How to scale decision-making

Many CEOs find themselves going from meeting to meeting to meeting. When we look into why this is so, one of the main reasons is that they are called upon to make decisions in each meeting. These could range from small decisions, like approving a marketing program, to large decisions such as management team hires or strategy changes.

In many ways the CEO is the CDO – Chief Decision Officer.

While there is no question that many decisions can and should be reserved for the CEO, most decisions can be made by other team members. CEOs that hold onto decision-making too tightly find themselves with an impossible task: They have the exact same number of hours per day but an always-growing list of decisions to make (on top of the always-growing inbox that they have less and less time to get to….).

In addition, by holding onto decision-making, CEOs are dis-empowering their team members. This results in the tragic situation of a CEO overwhelmed with decisions to make and team members craving decisions to make.

Since it is impossible for a CEO to maintain individual decision-making as the company grows here are some suggestions for scaling decision-making company wide:

Start with values: One of the reasons why CEOs hold onto decision-making is that they fear that others will make the ‘wrong’ decisions. This is an opportunity for values.

If your company is truly living a set of core values. Values that are regularly communicated, celebrated and reinforced through actions and not just words, then those values can provide a consistent framework for decision-making by others. That framework can guide team members to make decisions in a consistent way across the company.

Recognize responsibility: For process/ how to decisions especially, push down decision-making to those team members and individuals that are actually responsible for doing the work. They are the closest to the problem and will have to live with the solution.

Make decision-making a core competency: If you are to succeed in distributing decision-making then everyone needs to be good at. Consider training, mentoring and other programs to improve decision-making competency.

Consider a decision journal where you document key decisions and then revisit them periodically to see if decision-making stands the test of time.

Accept some failures: We learn the most through our mistakes. To truly scale decision-making you need to allow team members to make some mistakes. Just like the old Facebook mantra: “move fast and break things”, by giving team members rope to fail they will grow far faster and ultimately make better decisions than if you micro manage and make decisions for them.

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