We are at a fork in the road; companies that can adapt to better decision-making and execute their ideas will continue to exist, those that don’t won’t be here for much longer.
Nothing stops a new digital transformation or innovation in its tracks faster than “but we’ve always done it this way.” It’s the same stumble caused by “it worked before” or “this way will cause less conflict” that causes progress to falter and strategic initiatives to fail ultimately.
The one thing these phrases share is that they’re rooted in bias, especially pre-pandemic ones, and bias prevents business leaders from making the most winning decisions. By learning to recognize and overcome biases, you can unlock an advantage that many business leaders have yet to discover. This advantage will allow you to view your company’s execution capability data from an objective perspective and make more impactful decisions.
Let’s explore how biases can influence the decision-making process and how you can improve your strategic outcomes by recognizing and deflecting your own.
Neutralize Bias in the Decision-Making Process
In my experience as a business strategist, I’ve helped countless executives prepare to undertake major strategic transformation and innovation initiatives. While situations and leadership styles differ, one element in the problem-solving equation is nearly constant: most clients don’t lack amazing ideas. In fact, they possess a consistent ability to generate great ideas—their problem is that those ideas aren’t coming to life.
Many business leaders struggle to realize their ideas because they’re stuck repeating behavioral patterns and making biased decisions that don’t produce the desired results. What do these biases look like?
Consider an executive currently in the process of gauging their company’s execution capabilities—how prepared they are to successfully carry out a digital transformation or innovation effort. While measuring the company’s capabilities, they are asked to gather feedback from eight participants, but there is hesitation.
“Is there any way that we can pare this down to four or five participants?” they ask. “Because I don’t want to involve other people. Bringing them in will only cause tension in the organization.”
That pushback is their bias speaking. Instead of prioritizing what would get the best results, their first instinct is to reduce potential conflict or resistance. However, getting results often requires taking the more uncomfortable road. Sometimes, we get feedback we don’t want to hear. But, often, painful feedback is also the most helpful.
What about Execution?
Countless words and hours get spent discussing strategy, but too often, the execution of said strategy doesn’t receive the same treatment. It’s easy to get swept away by the energy and passion of generating new transformation or innovation ideas and overlook the comparatively dull task of measuring execution capability for each—your company’s ability to execute your plan.
Why aren’t business leaders talking about, and, more importantly, planning for execution instead of assuming their existing capabilities can handle it? I believe old decision models are to blame, and to move past these obstacles. Leaders need to unlearn practices that no longer apply in today’s markets.
Why the Capabilities You Built for Today Don’t Translate to Tomorrow
Assuming your current people, process and technology have the capabilities to deliver your transformation or innovation ideas is a symptom of traditional management theory that has overstayed its welcome. This old approach is subject to biases and other poor decision influencers, like overestimating the value of past experiences, that you have great hiring models, or that you have an aggressive project portfolio management (PPM) model is a direct indicator that you are relying on bias. Instead, leaders pursue ideas and attempt to make up for shortcomings later, often to disappointing, costly results.
Instead of moving ahead with ideas and trying to force the issue, leaders would benefit from being more selective about which initiatives to pursue from the start. It’s time to transform the decision-making process so we can position our companies with increased precision. We’re in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, an era ruled by data, and by applying that data to our decision-making processes, we improve our initiatives’ chances of success.
By using the data already available, companies can measure their capability to execute their ideas before spending time and resources on new initiatives. Forming strategies around realistic goals—goals they demonstrably have the money, skills, and people to achieve—is the key to outperforming the average 50% failure rate of all business decisions.
Measure Execution Capability to Drive Growth
If you’re relying on the traditional intuition-based decision-making models, now is the time to unlearn what you’ve learned and allow your ideas to reach their full potential. Your gut is not a good decision-maker. There’s a reason critical scores, bond ratings, and personality tests exist: there is value in measuring data in a neutral way.
Experience gives you the ability to intake raw information and process it better. Still, to make truly informed decisions and accurately gauge your ability to execute your ideas, you must rely on unbiased data.
Decision-making is the hardest part of running a business, and no amount of experience or process will replace measuring the execution readiness of the business itself. No business leader has the crystal-ball intuition to look into their business and instantly understand their team’s ability to execute their vision, but they do have the data.
This article is based on the book Measure, Executive, Win! by Alex Castro.