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Ioana Bota

The right balance between unbiased decision-making processes and timely action

Three top executives share their insights on strategic decision-making. Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, Randy Komisar, Partner at Kleiner Kleiner Perkins Caufield [&] Byers and Anne Mulcahy, former chairman and CEO at Xerox.

Among the highlighted ideas:

‘Learn from mistakes and listen to feedback’

Directors should react quickly and take advantage of all opportunities. Their decisions need to be fast, based on intuition as well as experience, and data. Nonetheless, as no decision is flawless, they need to be prepared for mistakes. And when that happens, accept them and learn from them.

Harness bias

The biases can actually work in favour of a good decision. And rather than tuning them out, experts encourage a balanced bias within an effective decision-making process.

Make a balance sheet

Use a methodology to explore the opinions of those present in meeting before making a big, hard decision. The process is simple: ask the participants to express their thoughts at the beginning without giving in to judgements. The method avoids frictions, highlights the know-how of the attendees and leads to better results.

Create a culture where ‘failure’ is not a wrong answer

Companies must build a culture of good decision-making. And to create this, they need to have it clear that the wrong answer is not 'failure', unless it is purposefully ignored. As it happens, most times Plan A fails. And so, companies have to adapt and understand how to reach Plan B, faster.

Listen to the little voice

Diversity of opinion is great. And to have a leader that is comfortable with diversity of opinion, that adds value to decision-making. Leaders need to adapt to uncertainty and ambiguity, and be able to change their opinion if the arguments are pertinent enough. And, most of all, they should listen to the little voice presenting them a different perspective.

And so, leaning on the experience of the ‘elders’, directors can now focus on cultivating internal critics, on safeguarding the different points of view and thought, and on prioritising business strategies. By doing this, they can strive for a balance between timely actions and unbiased decision-making processes. For more about the latter, take a look at Board Blog.

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