Which Strategy is Right for My Company? Part 6- Deciding How to Decide
We’ve talked about how to define success and the importance of sharing that definition in your company. We’ve conjured up strategy ideas for ideas for your company and its competitors, real and potential, in the markets you serve. We’ve seen there are many, where “many” means many, scenarios in your company’s future.
That means you have big decisions to make, and you will make them under irreducible uncertainty about the future(s).
It’s time to decide how you’ll make those decisions. Here we’ll focus on relatively informal approaches. In the next installment we’ll focus on more-formal alternatives.
I’m the boss
Rationale. It’s your job to decide. Maybe it’s even your company. The buck stops here.
Technique. You decide.
Upside. Relatively quick. You look decisive. Not so much politics. You can take risks that a committee might not. No worries about people gaming the system to get promotions or preserve their jobs.
Downside. You have no one to blame but yourself if you don’t like the results. You don’t build decision-making talent. Doesn’t benefit from others’ knowledge or perspectives.
When to use. In times of emergency or crisis. (I think crisis declarations are overused. NB: Frequent crises suggest inadequate attention to prevention.) When there is no management team, or the management team is inexperienced. To put an end to incessant squabbling. (This isn’t the only way to do that.) When stakes and risks are low.
You’re my team
Rationale. It’s a team effort. We’re all in this together. If you agree with me all the time, one of us is not useful.
Technique. The team debates and analyzes (and maybe debates and analyzes some more). It votes, it achieves consensus or compromise, it advises the boss.
Upside. Builds buy-in. Involves the people who will implement the decision. Takes advantage of the group’s knowledge and expertise. Reinforces culture of respect, empowerment, commitment. Strengthens team for the long run.
Downside. Potentially time-consuming. Team doesn’t necessarily have top-management perspective. Might have to accept and embrace a decision you don’t like. Can be divisive. Facilitator (if used) costs money.
When to use. When people/functions are in disarray and need to come together. When the strategy might require coordinating multiple individuals or groups. When potential changes are big and need to be thought through.
Chicken soup for the strategist
Rationale. “A guru, consultant, celebrity, highly visible company, and/or highly visible CEO adopted strategy X, and it worked.”
Technique. There is much strategy advice out there, much of it for free or for the cost of a book. Find those that make sense to you.
Upside. The ideas have worked (or seemed to) at least once. They’ve been vetted by reputable, or at least famous, people. Firm basis for a decision, and if it doesn’t work, blame the guru, consultant, celebrity, etc. Quick. Inexpensive. Can take advantage of smart people’s forward thinking.
Downside. This is not unlike “I felt lousy and I ate chicken soup and I felt better.” Some experts extol strategy X, equally august experts extol strategy not-X. Much can be lost in the translation from a book or lecture to your company’s strategy.
When to use. The more-closely the situation in the book (or wherever) fits yours, the better. The lower the risks, and the fewer the irrevocable commitments you have to make, the better.
Wait and see
Rationale. Don’t commit before we have to. We can make a better decision when we know more. The second mouse gets the cheese.
Technique. Wait, until some clearly-defined condition has occurred or time has elapsed. And see, by tracking the information you’ll use to make your decision.
Upside. Learn from others’ experience. Reduce risk. Take time to study the options.
Downside. “Tomorrow,” shrilled the little red-dressed girl who loved tomorrow on Broadway, “is only a day away.” And tomorrow is always a day away. Also: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
When to use. When costs of being wrong are high, lost opportunities from delay are low, and odds of being able to make a better decision soon are good. The better-decision part helps you distinguish procrastination and fear from the appropriate use of wait-and-see.
View Part 1 of the Series – What You Want
View Part 2 of the Series – What They Want
View Part 3 of the Series- Speaking the Same Language
View Part 4 of the Series- Generating Ideas
View Part 5 of the Series- “Holy Futures, Batman!”
Coming up next
More rationales, techniques, upsides, downsides, and whens-to-use. They’ll be more-formal than those we discussed here.
About the author
Mark Chussil is Founder and CEO of Advanced Competitive Strategies, Inc. and a 35-year veteran in competitive strategy. He has designed strategy simulators and conducted business war games for dozens of companies, in many industries, around the world, helping them make or save billions of dollars.
A highly rated and entertaining speaker, Mark speaks about strategic thinking at conferences and in corporate workshops. He has written three books, chapters for five others, and numerous articles, and he has been quoted in Fast Company, Harvard Management Update, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications.
Mark is also a Founder of Benefitics, LLC (which quantifies Social ROI for non-profit organizations) and a Founder of Crisis Simulations International, LLC. He earned his B.A. at Yale and his M.B.A. at Harvard.