What does it take to make real-time decisions in a real-time age?

January 26, 2016

 

Many of my clients share my view that the speed of change in our economy is increasing.

 

The Davos’ WEF session moderated by Rich Lesser recently gave us a breathtaking overview of how digital technologies (for example) disrupt many of our existing models of business and government.

 

Marc Benioff (Salesforce Chairman and CEO) stated that in his 35-plus years in the technology industry, he has never experienced so much innovation, and at such an incredibly rapid pace.

 

Every single day, large companies as well as startups are confronted with an unpredictable business world, which is:

 

  • changing faster than plans can be implemented

  • changing faster than employees can adapt to it using planning and programming tools

  • difficult to track in all its changing aspects.

 

This innovation “at such an incredibly rapid pace” presents great opportunities, but also serious challenges. In this context, timely decision-making may quickly decide a company’s prosperity or demise. Digital technologies give us real-time data on a gold plate in the form of all kind of reports, so we may have the impression that we have the capability for real-time decision-making. Unfortunately, this is not true.

 

Real-time data is just one aspect, but:

 

  • at enterprise level, traditional business strategy processes require not just data, but also time, discussion, and consensus. You might argue, “we do have a strategy plan”. Great, but unfortunately having a strategy plan is no guarantee that a company is really implementing the strategy. As well as visions and mission statements, plans are based on a snapshot which can be very different a few days after the strategy session. So, the business environment is highly unpredictable and insights about the business and the landscape in which we operate are moving targets.

 

  • at team level, tensions and politics might hinder leadership and development. As a collection of jobs and individual capabilities, team members’ actions and reactions could be random, uncoordinated and unintentional, despite having real-time data. The reality of a team is complex and the way it functions and collaborates is a real-time effort.  So, there is a need for consciousness about what best characterizes a team and what most effects the way the team works at its best.

 

  • at individual level, unpredictable working conditions – changes in the market, in business models, in company ownership, in responsibilities, etc. – demand a certain resilience. In addition to having the right data to make a good decision, resilience helps the individual become adept at heeding changes and making sound and ethical decisions that are true to the individual’s identity as well as to the company’s identity. So, how can our talents build an “identity in real-time” instead of just having a job title, or how can they become “valuable” instead of just being employed?

 

It all starts with real-time…

 

When can we decide things in real-time? There aren’t many answers. We can make decisions in real-time when:

 

  1. we can predict the future (how many of us are oracles?), or

  2. we have already seen this “change” before (how many of us had already experienced the impact on a       previous business model of, for example, the Internet of Things?), or

  3. we are thoroughly prepared with a list of all possible changes and related actions to take.

 

Without a strange gift for prophecy, we can discard (1.). The complexity of the business world has very little room for déjà vu, so we can also forget about (2.). For the same reason, a list demanded by (3.) would be very long, but also far from realistic, so (3.) is gone too.

 

Are we really lost? Is there anything to help companies, teams, and individuals in making real-time decisions?

 

The prerequisite for succeeding in this mission impossible is a technique for facilitated thinking, communication, and problem-solving with the ideal combination of emotions, people-orientation, fun, focus, commitment-creation, and measurable results.

 

The basic concept leverages everybody’s ability to imagine, describe, and understand a specific situation. It counts on the fact that by actively using our hands while learning, we all activate higher levels of insight, inspiration, and imagination.

 

By using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® we discover a new answer to the key question “when can we decide things in real-time?” We can, when we have a clear ‘operating system’ which guides us – as an individual, as a team, and as a company – in decision-making. Imagine having universally valid guiding principles for you and your team, helping you make decisions in any circumstances. With this;

 

  • you don’t need lists of possible changes and related actions, because whatever happens you know how to decide and you know why you are taking this decision and not another one

  • you don’t need meetings or to ask for approvals, because these guiding principles are shared, approved and agreed in advance.

 

What are “guiding principles”? We can look at them as a wisdom of real life gained through experience and shared with others (something we can also call common sense). As guiding principles, they are “guiding” our decision making process rather than leading us to certain decisions. They don’t tell us what to do, but rather what to look at and focus on when deciding how to act. As principles – rather than instructions or rules – they don’t give us the solution, but specify in what spirit a solution should be chosen.

 

Guiding principles are not transferable because they emerge from the collective mind and from the team life of a specific group. Their foundation is in the shared values, in the identity, and in the aspirations of the individuals within the team.

 

Creating the list of guiding principles is a three-step approach (my next post), exactly addressed by the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method.

 

Would we trust a company, a team and individuals to be able to make superior real-time decisions when faced with the unexpected?

 

Would you like to test the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology to develop real-time decision capability?

I’m happy to work out a specific suggestion to target your specific situation. My email: lorenzo.nanetti@wanadoo.fr

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