Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Creating an Effective Decision Making Environment

Decisions. Information. Governance. What is the point?

The point is to establish the infrastructure and processes for an organization to learn, adapt, and ultimately make effective and timely decisions. Organizations are constantly faced with a myriad of decisions from the many tactical decisions we make every day to the few strategic, "bet-the-farm" decisions we make less frequently. Decisions are rarely made with perfect information. The real challenge is to create the right environment in order to make the best decisions possible given the circumstances and to ensure that the sum total of the decisions made moves the organization in the direction it seeks to go. Put another way, an effective decision making environment is guided by the goals and culture of the organization and leverages the right technology and processes.

Mark Kozak-Holland wrote a great series of ten articles for DM Review from November 2005 to December 2007 to illustrate this point. The series is titled "Winston Churcill's Decision-Making Environment" and provides a vivid picture of an effective decision making environment. Kozak-Holland takes us back to the early days of World War II, shortly after Churchill has been swept to power and faces a daunting task - how to protect Britain from an imminent invasion by a numerically superior German force with about half of the aircraft needed to defend the homeland.

In the articles, Kozak-Holland does a great job of capturing the key components of the British decision making machine - Bentley Prior (RAF Fighter Command), Bletchley Park (code breakers), Whitehall (fighter supply chain), and Storey's Gate (Churchill's headquarters) - and the tight communication and process interrelationships among the different components. What emerges is a picture of a highly effective decision making environment that is operating under extreme conditions. However, through the use of the leading technology and operational processes of the day, the environment performs brilliantly and allows the British to prosecute the early campaign in a way far beyond the limited resources available.

The articles provide an excellent example of how an effective decision making environment can be a significant competitive asset. While most of our organizations face less dire circumstances than Churchill faced, Kozak-Holland's articles are certainly worth the read.

I would like to hear how you feel the principles raised are evident (or not) in your organization.

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