Freedom of Choice

The buck stops here. As a decision maker, every choice you make concerning the business affects the business, its employees, and even its clients. Many of those consequences may be minor, such as changing the brand of copy paper used in the office. Other decisions carry far-reaching and significant consequences that swing the pendulum of success from achievement to failure and back again. Savvy decision makers don’t assume they know every facet to every decision that must be made concerning their companies, or even their departments. They also have more to do than make decisions all day every day. In short, they delegate.

While important corporate decisions that affect employee livelihoods and clients should follow standard guidelines to ensure that those decisions are made from thorough analysis of the best information available, strict protocols that force decision making along a specific path stifle creativity and prevent innovation. Approval processes that add layer upon layer of unnecessary bureaucracy also clog the pipeline for simply conducting business.

Case in point: A manager needed a bookcase to hold the many manuals related to regulatory, organization and union rules, and the vehicles repaired and maintained by that department. The manager identified the basic bookcase that would serve the purpose and submitted the request for approval to his supervisor. He approved the purchase and submitted it to the next manager in the organizational hierarchy. That manager disapproved with the comment, “What are you going to do with this piece of equipment?” The manager’s sarcastic response to a colleague: “I’m going to build a nuclear submarine with it. What does he think I’m going to do with a bookcase?” The manuals remained in piles on his office floor.

Decision makers at every level need freedom to make the choices that will aid in their work. While executives understand that approvals are necessary to avoid unreasonable purchases, excessive layers of bureaucracy add frustration and resentment.

In addition to facilitating the daily work of business, decision making authority increases productivity and job satisfaction. According to Discover Business, “In a recent study from the University of Chicago School of Business, research found that happiness depends more on opportunities to make decisions (i.e., freedom) rather than money or connections.” Rather than hold tightly to authority and power, executives can unleash the productive and innovative potential of their employees by helping them learn to make good decisions.

The 6-step value analysis process, cause-and-effect analysis models, PEST, FMEA, and SWOT analysis, and other decision-making strategies aid in:
● Determining what information is pertinent to the issue,
● Collecting the necessary information,
● Analyzing the information,
● Generating ideas for resolving the issue,
● Evaluating those ideas for feasibility and benefit,
● Selecting the best ideas for action.

Critical decision making depends upon asking questions–the right questions. If you remember your parents urging you to think before you speak, carry this a step further: Think before you act. The thinking process involves critical questioning that “allows you to clearly distinguish facts from biases, stakeholders from observers, and solutions from potential solutions.”

Contrary to the belief of many executives, structure, scale, and disposition of resources do not determine performance, although they may affect it. In their article “The Decision-Driven Organization,” Marcia W. Blenko, Michael Mankins, and Paul Rogers refer to a study by Bain & Company: “57 reorgs between 2000 and 2006 found that fewer than one-third produced any meaningful improvement in performance. Most had no effect, and some actually destroyed value.” Their research shows that structure, scale, and disposition of resources “produce better performance if and only if it improves the organization’s ability to make and execute key decisions better and faster than competitors.” That means innovation, not organization, should be a company’s strategic priority.

Innovation requires freedom.