Leaders at large seem to be plagued by chronic
indecisiveness, and as they stall on making important decisions, they
effectively paralyze the rest of their organizations. In fact, 53%
of employees feel there is too much red tape in their organizations,
according to Discovery Surveys.
The most common for slow
decision making include:
many priorities. Projects continually move to "next
perceived role/title of authority without any real power.
of business today and rapidly changing organizational goals.
out of balance focus on "what" needs to be done over the
"how", creating a gap in the knowledge and understanding
required to make wise decisions.
bosses and competing agendas.
of leadership resourcefulness, patience, and transparency in
soliciting help and gathering information.
of making a mistake or rocking the boat.
that the situation will go away or resolve itself.
Regardless of the reason, leadership indecision is
a destructive virus, gradually weakening organizations from the inside
out. Consider the following story that demonstrates the broad
range impact of waffling.
large, national company there has been a change in executive leadership for
positive reasons - the organization is growing and expanding into new
markets and needed an experienced leader to set strategies and guide them
through previously uncharted territory.
executive came aboard, conducted a thorough assessment, and then directed
the functional leaders to do three things: 1. Restructure
(without lost headcount), 2. Realign resources, 3. Create
strategic plans that would lay out the framework for taking their
respective departments to the next level of performance. The new company
banner was accountability, accountability, accountability.
start, indeed; which makes what has happened since all the more
baffling. Half a year has passed and no visible changes have
occurred.Yet there has been no shortage of
management meetings (or the cost per hour in salaries that come with
it) or a lack of discussion, a lack of bench strength, or a lack of
resources. Committees have been formed, surveys have been conducted,
and clear answers have emerged from employees at all levels.
manpower, time, or resources then what would prevent a clear mandate like
this from coming to fruition?The source of the stagnation
most often stems from the department heads concern over ruffling feathers,
breaking traditions and a general fear of rocking the boat.
be clear. We are the first to preach the importance of leaders
being tuned in to the needs and emotional climate of their
workforce. However, there is nothing advantageous or
employee-centric about making your staff tread water while
they sit and wait for final changes they have been told are
by consensus sounds great in theory. We all know that employees
who are involved in the decision making process are likely to be more
engaged. But, if management by consensus is overused it can take
too long and create contagious indecisiveness.
is debilitating; it feeds upon itself; it is, one might almost say,
habit-forming. Not only that, but it is contagious; it transmits itself to
others." - H.A. Hopf
boarding people on a plane without a destination, leaders risk
losing employee's interest, motivation, and patience. What earns
you more employee engagement - to make decisions slowly, by popular vote or
to lead with vision making swift changes that are thought out and clearly
leaders doddle, trying to figure out a way to gently sneak the company
into change, employees long for some good old fashioned,
managers overlook the destructive impact delays and flip-flopping have
on employee performance. By leaving them in no man's land (not
operating in the past and not fully working in the future), they create a
performance patchwork of people. Some behave in the old way,
some do things their own way, and some unsure of what to do, do nothing at
all. A sure fire recipe for inconsistency, quality erosion, and
matters worse, when decisions are finally made, they are often done at the
wrong level to create real impact. In a study by author and organizational psychologist Bruce Katcher, 63% of employees say that
decisions in their company are usually not made at the appropriate level.
some leaders suffer alongside their people. Innovative solutions
at middle management get smothered because budgets haven't been
approved. Financial incentive is out of alignment with the
company's new direction as revised compensation plans sit waiting for
approval. Customer opportunities are lost because sales support is
off pace with market demands.
So how can
organizations get off the dime and start making some real progress? Here
are a few suggestions:
Set hard deadlines for
publicly announcing strategic direction and hold people accountable to
especially if the new direction is complex, involving many layers of
people to produce something. Give latitude to begin the process
instead of keeping it all top secret until the entire plan is
perfect. Plan for small wins along the way.
Don't be afraid of hurt
feelings. It is impossible to make everyone happy at
the same time. Figure out who your most valuable employees
are and who your most valuable customers are and make decisions based
on what is best for them.
Be clear on your Purpose,
Process, and Performance Measurement. What is the
potential value gained or lost based on this decision? Has my process
taken into consideration all parties affected? Have I
sought impartial expertise? What value or momentum will be
lost if I wait? How will I measure the success of this
Timing is everything. By
postponing proactive changes you force your organization to be a fast
follower instead of an industry pace setter.
Investigate delays. Push
past the standard "these things take time" and get involved
in the construction stages. Leaders must not stop at
visioning and delegating.
Surround yourself with
people who can make their own decisions and accept
accountability for the results.
Educate front line and
middle management on strategic decision making. Given solid
information and an understanding of the stakes, they will do the right
thing for the business. Trust them.
Effective leaders know when and how to orchestrate smart
decision making and often rely on their front line to make big plays and
execute serious decisions. Employees want a leader who
will lead, not a good survey taker.
As Theodore Roosevelt so wisely put it, "in any
moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best
thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is