How to Approach Agile Decision-Making in Your Organization
The global COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn have changed virtually every aspect of our lives, and more quickly than we may have ever experienced.
New companies may be faster and more responsive to change, while many established, older businesses can have processes, procedures and work habits that work to slow them down, making it difficult to adapt to the current environment. Here are some effective strategies that can help slower-moving enterprises be more nimble and help existing agile businesses be even more responsive to the ever-changing world around them:
Break Down Barriers and Work As A Team
Organizations may become sluggish when they divide themselves into departments, each with its own leadership. They build up unnecessary layers, divisions and walls that can slow the ability to make decisions and take action. An effective way to overcome this is to eliminate layers of management, tear down walls and work as a single team made up of equals. Including everyone in a fully transparent decision-making process can allow you to not only get to a decision faster, but it can also prove to be a better decision. Gathering more perspectives can help you, especially during times like these when people are experiencing the pandemic and financial crisis in so many different ways.
Encourage People to Speak Freely
Decisions can be made faster and more efficiently when people are allowed to speak their minds within a culture more focused on the team rather than the individual player. Decision-making becomes more like a sports scramble, where players and coaches are encouraged to share what’s best to move the team down the playing field so they can put points on the board.
Keep Doors Open
Some people are great at speaking up publicly. Others are not. That’s why it’s important to be open and accessible to everyone. It’s the only way you’ll hear from the shy individual with the big idea. Welcoming communication from everyone can help encourage people to share solutions, talk and brainstorm. An organization can’t be agile if it doesn’t do everything possible to encourage open and honest dialogue anyplace, anytime.
Communicate Simple Goals People Understand
If you can’t explain your company’s mission and goals within a minute or less, it may create challenges in your employees to be able to understand and deliver on them. The same is true if you’ve adjusted your mission and goals because of changes forced by the pandemic and resulting financial crisis. Having both a simple and straightforward mission and goals that are clearly and consistently communicated will help your company and your employees react more quickly and effectively as everyone will be working toward the same common objectives. That is an imperative of being agile.
Stay Focused on Customers
Your customers’ mindsets are likely evolving every single day as personal and business realities change. Keep your employees focused on serving customer needs and give them the freedom to do so. This is an easy way to reduce layers of decision-making and could help you beat the competition when it comes to finding new and better ways to serve customers during changing times.
Leverage Real-Time Metrics to Help Make Decisions
Having the right numbers to help guide your decision-making process can be a holy grail. Having a well-defined key performance indicator (KPI) and the right metrics in place that allows you to measure the impact of your decisions is key to understanding if you are on track to achieve your strategic goals. If you don’t have ready access to the data you need to make informed choices, fix the issue right away. Empower your team to develop a dashboard with real-time metrics so you always have what you need to have informed conversations about critical decisions.
Be Willing to Accept “Good Enough”
Why wait a week for information that’s 100 percent complete when you can have the same information at a 95 percent level in an hour? During rapidly changing times like these, fast “good enough” data can be more valuable than delayed, so-called “perfect” data. Acting quickly on something reasonable may have a bigger, more positive impact on your bottom line than waiting too long. If after all the data comes in, and you determine you don’t have it exactly right, you can still pivot quickly if you are working in true agile fashion.
Tip: Don’t just ask people what they know. Ask what they don’t know. It may help give you more data to determine whether the missing information is really critical for making sound decisions.
Create Feedback Loops
Was the last decision you made a good one, or not? Either way, it’s ok if you learned something from the decision. Every choice your team makes is an opportunity to learn. Make it a point to find out how every decision pans out. It can be as simple as putting a prompt in your calendar to follow up or better yet, you could have a quick retrospective meeting to go over what went well and what didn’t. Getting into a habit of learning from both successes and failures will help give you more confidence to make rapid decisions not only during today’s changing times, but in the future as well.
Learn more about how to safely reopen your business and embrace agile decision making during COVID-19 in our Business Reopening Playbook.
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