The past 12-15 months have been an incredible season of learning for leaders in every industry. From healthcare to manufacturing and everywhere in between, every plan went up in smoke as key decision-makers adjusted to seemingly endless transitions and each “new normal”.
While many executives registered for Humility 401 at COVID University, some leaders got a second (or third) shot in the arm and grew their organizations to new heights. What set these individuals—and their companies—apart from their competitors was their ability to make lightning-fast decisions.
They had all the same information as the rest of the market, but their understanding of a few key principles allowed them to soar while others struggled. You can apply these same fundamental ideas to your organization to ensure you are ready to lead well during every twist and turn in your market.
How can you increase your decision-making speed?
- Clearly define your goals
- Connect to all your vital data sources
- Outline your standard operating procedures (SOPs)
- Regularly measure and evaluate your performance
Clearly define your goals
The biggest mistake most executives make is not specifically outlining the strategic goals of their organization. How many times have you heard these boilerplate goals before?
- Increase revenue
- Sign more accounts
- Decrease shrink
- Improve employee satisfaction
None of these objectives are bad to aim for, but they also lack a specific, targeted direction. How do you measure “more” and “increase” year over year? Is it good enough to be in the black, or do you need to hit a certain figure to keep the lights on?
As an organizational leader, it is your job to create SMART goals for your company to ensure your team is moving in the right direction. In order for your goals to have a real impact on the life of your enterprise, they need to be: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based. Take some time to read more about the SMART methodology and examples of power-packed goal statements.
Once your goals have been defined, make them clear! Don’t hide them in a notebook where no one else can see, but share them and get buy-in from your trusted leaders and advisors. As an executive, it is your responsibility to ensure that all your key team members understand and support your company’s direction.
Clearly defining these organizational targets will equip you to make better decisions in a shorter timeframe. When presented with multiple options you can easily choose the one the directly support the goals you so painstakingly outlined. However, decision-making prep goes beyond simply knowing your goals. The next step is creating transparency and visibility at every level of your enterprise.
Connect to all of your vital data sources
In many companies, data is treated like an iceberg: leadership is satisfied with the information they can see from above, but often ignores the important information below the surface. Company executives are familiar with the high-level information on the P&L, but ignoring the full breadth of your organization’s metrics can lead to catastrophe.
We all know what happened to the Titanic in 1912, but many organization leaders fall into the same trap. They don’t see the obstacle until it is too late, often leading to irrevocable damage. And this problem is perpetuated for good reason. It can be difficult to analyze information from every single one of your data sources, like your CRM, HRIS, accounting software, POS, and more. This is why it is essential for leaders to utilize an organizational success platform that can connect to and display all of their vital metrics.
Continuing the iceberg analogy, the KPIs further down in your organization many times tell a different story about what is happening in your company and in your industry. These changes are often subtle, and it can be impossible to understand these shifts without regular review, or when trying to scan an expansive excel document.
In order to make quick, informed decisions, leaders need to be hyper-aware of the data at every level of their operation and create transparency around their metrics. This information directly supports decision-making as you seek to pursue your SMART goals and ultimate company vision. Make sure you are leveraging a platform that connects to all of your data in real-time, and one that is software agnostic, allowing you to sync with your current and future applications at every level.
Outline your standard operating procedures (SOPs)
Once you have clearly outlined your SMART goals and created transparency around all of your data sources, it is essential to outline your organization’s standard operating procedures (SOPs).
In military terminology, an SOP is a set of instructions that lends itself to a definite or standardized procedure without loss of effectiveness. These instructions are essential for frontline personnel, both in the military and everywhere from SMBs to large enterprises. It is a leader’s responsibility to outline certain tactics for team members across their organizations, and SOPs help take the guesswork out of what a “good job” looks like. What many executives don’t realize is how valuable this same concept can be in the c-suite or the board room.
While you may not realize it, you are probably using certain standardized operating procedures every single day, even if they’re not written down. We all have certain habits we fall into without being fully aware, and make decisions based on those habits and patterns of thinking. If we take time to analyze those patterns, we can create instructions for ourselves and our leadership teams that make it easy to make the right decision and pave the way for business continuity.
What do you do when revenue goes down? How do you manage a shift in the market? What will your first reaction be to a new piece of technology that disrupts your industry? With careful thought and detailed analysis of our important metrics, we can create SOPs to help us react in a positive manner and in the quickest way possible.
Start by analyzing your previous decisions and historical changes in your company. Did you make the right decision? How could those situations have been handled more effectively? Once you find clarity around these historical choices, outline a “playbook” of SOPs to help you with shifts in the future. While every situation is different and requires its own careful consideration, these standard operating procedures can help lead you to the right decision faster than ever.
Regularly measure and evaluate your performance
We’ve all heard the phrase “analysis paralysis” and many times evaluating past performance can feel like an exercise in futility. It’s impossible to go back and change previous decisions, so many executives avoid the conversation entirely. Great leaders, however, understand the value of regularly measuring every aspect of their company performance and the impact such experiences have on future growth.
Not all analysis is created equal: deep dives and full audits are essential 1-2 times per year but would cripple your team if performed on a weekly or monthly basis. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a one-hour review of top-level KPIs can help you plan your week but would leave you wholly unprepared to create a long-term strategy. Executives need to balance these priorities and understand when to explore each level of their organization.
Taking time to regularly review your past performance is one of the most important ways to inform future decision-making. This is true when creating SOPs as stated above, but also when reviewing smaller shifts and changes in your company. Armed with all of your connected data sources, you can review short and long-term trends to see if you are on track to meet your SMART goals. If adjustments need to be made, you can steer the ship and refine your SOPs to ensure your enterprise is headed in the right direction.
This type of regular analysis is essential to growth-minded executives, and it’s only possible through the use of a real-time operational success platform. Reviewing up-to-the-minute information can help you solve problems before they even start, allowing you to focus on building, rather than repairing.
Don’t make this outline a one-time exercise. The most successful executives and enterprises are the ones who regularly create clarity around their goals, ensure they see every KPI in real-time, redefine standard operating procedures, and review their personal and organizational performance. These tools will help you and your team develop the necessary skills to increase decision-making and operational excellence.