Decide & Deliver: A book review by Bob Morris

Decide & DeliverDecide & Deliver: Five Steps to Breakthrough Performance in Your Organization
Marcia W. Blenko, Michael C. Mankins, and Paul Rogers
Harvard Business Review Press (2010)

How and why making the right decisions will sustain superior performance

This book’s co-authors, Marcia W. Blenko, Michael C. Mankins, and Paul Rogers, explain how and why making the right decisions will sustain superior performance. More specifically, they have the reader focus on these strategic objectives:

o Assess your decision effectiveness – and how your organization affects it
o Identify your critically important decisions
o Apply best practices to those critical decisions in need of improvement
o Ensure that the organization enables and reinforces great decision making and execution
o Embed all improvements in everyday practice

The co-authors devote a separate chapter to explaining how to achieve each of these strategic objectives. It is important to keep in mind that decision making is both a single transaction and an extended process; also, that the quality of decisions made by individuals is significantly influenced (for better or worse) by the culture within which they are made. Therefore, if individuals are held accountable for their decisions, their organization must share responsibility. For that reason, the co-authors not only examine how well individuals make and execute decisions; they also examine how organizations help or hinder that process.

“The central message of the book is this: you can’t consistently improve decision making and execution in a company without looking at the entire organizational system.” These comments evoke questions such as these: Does your organization support and encourage decision making at all levels and in all areas? Does it help its people (with both formal training and in-the-job supervision) to make better decisions? Does it prevent or eliminate barriers, including troublemakers? Because the best decisions are well-informed decisions, does your organization ensure direct access to whatever information may be needed?

Although Blenko, Mankins, and Rogers do a thorough job of identifying the “what” when examining the interdependence of decision making with individual and organizational performance, they devote the bulk of their attention to explaining “how” to determine which decisions to make and then how to make the right ones. They also explain “how” to identify and then solve problems. Barriers to communication, cooperation, collaboration, productivity, and efficiency are seldom obvious. Consider this checklist (on Pages 33-34). By which the co-authors identify ten “afflictions that compromise performance”:

1. “Structural sclerosis”: blockage and barriers
2. “Decision ambiguity”: confusion and indecision
3. “Process analysis”: delays, procrastination, excessive analysis
4. “Data dysfunction”: information is incomplete, obsolete, inaccessible
5. “Misaligned measures”: Right initiatives but wrong incentives…vice versa
6. “Blurred vision”: the workplace equivalent of “the fog of war”
7. “Consensus overdose”: inability to achieve sufficient agreement & support
8. “Talent deficiency”: key people lack sufficient experience and/or competence
9. “Behavior breakdown”: gap between what leaders say and do
10. “Performance anemia”: lack of sufficient energy and/or engagement

Time Out: Curious, I established a scale of 1-10 (ten = None and One = Completely, per each of the ten “afflictions”) and rated the last five organizations that have retained me to work with their C-level executives. I scored the least afflicted a total of 92, the most afflicted 67. How would you score your organization?

All decisions have implications and consequences. The most difficult decisions have the most complicated implications and (usually) the most serious consequences. Therefore, leaders must decide how their organizations will make decisions before selecting the issues to be resolved. The core insight in this book is that organizations whose people consistently make outstanding judgments at all levels and in all areas will achieve superior performance. I urge all leaders to read and re-read this book, then decide to co-create with their “best and brightest” people a comprehensive and cohesive system for decision making, one that includes whatever formal and informal training anyone may now need to make the right decisions whenever needed.

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