Archive for the ‘Decision Making’ Category

In 100 Words: Success Anomalies

Thursday, November 1st, 2018 by Troy Schrock

Success anomalies are difficult, if not impossible, to replicate. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop leaders from attempting to repeat a success without first verifying a pattern exists. This over-confidence can result in large investments that don’t return. Organizations can have success anomalies and then stumble as leaders try to repeat past performance in important areas such as:

• Entering new markets
• Hiring senior level people
• Making acquisitions (statistically, the majority fail to deliver expected results).

Make significant investments only where there are clear patterns of positive outcomes. In other cases, make guarded resource commitments since you could be building on an anomaly.

“Everything has its limit – iron ore cannot be educated into gold.” Mark Twain

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In 100 Words: Hourglass Leaders

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018 by Troy Schrock

No, this message isn’t about using time wisely. The hourglass is a metaphor of something passing through a bottleneck. Specific to leaders, one chokepoint is our need to weigh in on too many different issues and decisions. This desire to review and provide input leads to final approvals stacking up in our inboxes. Speed of execution slows. There is an inverse correlation – the greater the amount of decisions and issues piled up on our desk, the less amount of work our teams are accomplishing. Determine where you can pass on decision authority. This will widen the neck of your hourglass.

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” Peter Drucker

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In 100 Words: Debrief Discipline

Friday, August 2nd, 2013 by Troy Schrock

Leaders should step back to analyze success or failure at the end of a project or goal period.  “Did we achieve the objective?”  “Have we identified root causes?”  “What role, if any, did fortune play in the final results?”  The simple rigor of capturing lessons learned improves future decisions and actions.  Debriefs often prove to be our most fertile ground for adaptive learning.

We neglect debriefs because we are:

  • Forgetful… sad, but true.
  • Too Busy… we think.
  • Too Excited… by whatever new objective lies ahead.
  • Avoiding Reality… it’s difficult acknowledging failures.

Instead, nurture a debrief discipline for your future benefit.

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”  (Benjamin Franklin)

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Debrief Like a Fighter Pilot

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012 by Troy Schrock

I am fascinated by the U.S. Military practice of systematic debriefing.  Geoff Colvin writes in Talent is Overrated:

“After any significant action, in training or in combat, soldiers and officers meet to discuss what happened.  They take off their helmets – a symbolic action indicating that ‘there’s no rank in the room,’ as [Colonel Thomas] Kolditz says.  ‘Comments are blunt.  If the boss made a bad decision, often it’s a subordinate who points that out.’  The session isn’t about blaming; instead, it’s ‘a professional discussion,’ as an army training circular puts it.  Part of its strength is that it yields very complete feedback.”

Wow.  Does your organization regularly run debriefs like that?  Think of the professionalism it requires.   Think of the discipline it demands.  Think of the trust teammates must have in one another to engage in that exercise.

Think of the results it must get.

If you don’t already, get in the habit of objectively reviewing successes and failures with your team.  Regardless of outcome, it’s important to pay attention to the decision making process that led to your present situation.  Remember, bad process sometimes yields good results, so unless you’re willing to debrief like the military, you may never catch your mistakes in order to fix them.

For more on this, you might be interested in Afterburner, a corporate training company led by fighter pilots that helps organizations implement the disciplines of flawless execution.


In 100 Words: Engorging at the Trough of Opportunity

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 by Troy Schrock

One thing that makes Apple CEO Steve Jobs unique is his reported ability to listen to three or four high quality ideas and very matter-of-factly say, “dumb idea…dumb idea…good idea!  That’s the one!”

In contrast, many entrepreneurs and executive teams, when faced with several worthy ideas, will want to pursue each one.  I call it engorging at the trough of opportunity.  There is lots of appealing food, it tastes good, but you walk away bloated and weighted down.

Businesses rarely suffer from lack of opportunity, but few have the discipline to choose the best opportunity and let the others go.

“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires great strength to decide on what to do.”  (Elbert Hubbard)

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Tips for Selecting the Right People for a Team

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 by Ellen Bryson

In recent years, companies have found it harder and harder to differentiate themselves from their competition and create a true competitive advantage.  Those that have pulled ahead have learned that putting the right people in the right jobs doing the right things creates an opportunity that would otherwise not exist.  Perhaps we would find an even greater advantage if we applied this same philosophy to creating teams within the organization.  Following are some tips for selecting the right people to work together on a particular issue:

  1. Identify a capable team leader whose ability to manage people is at least as strong his technical knowledge. 
  2. Grant full responsibility and authority to the team leader for making decisions and removing obstacles in order to achieve the goal within the specified timeframe.  Hold him accountable to this. 
  3. Ensure a good balance of communication and conflict styles among the team members.
  4. Select team members with the appropriate knowledge and expertise to address the problem.
  5. Choose individuals who are mature enough to lay aside personal desires in favor of what is best for the team. 
  6. If the team requires multiple levels of authority, demand that titles get checked at the door when addressing the issue at hand.  Everyone must be an equal participant in solving the problem.

For more detail, including some real-life examples of how this works, read “Winning Together” in the 2011 CEO Advantage Journal.