I just finished reading an interesting McKinsey article, “Untangling your organization’s decision making,” which describes decision-making best practices across four different scenarios:

(A) Big-bet

(B) Operational

(C) Delegated

(D) Episodic ad hoc

The article states that each scenario requires a specific process that matches the scenario complexity, risk, and frequency.

In this week’s blog post, I’m focusing on (B) Operational and combining McKinsey’s thoughts with ideas from another great book Team of Teams.

Operational Decisions are those “that are frequent and require broad collaboration across organizational boundaries”—the daily work of managing your business. 

So how do you move fast and effectively when making operational decisions? Bottom-line: Share overall objectives, train your teams and…simply let your teams do what they’re paid to do.

To be effective, operational decisions must often be coordinated through multiple leaders and teams to effectively execute the action. Think about a cost-cutting process change that involves operations, engineering, human resources, and technology. Team of Teams posits that diverse, specialized abilities are essential to successfully win a battle (think SEALs, Army Special Forces, Air Force, Communications, Logistics, etc., operating on the same field of battle). To create this “team of teams,” leaders must communicate the overall objectives of the battle, the specific assignments of each high-skilled team, and how each will collaborate. The teams then must be allowed to exercise their highly-trained skills, in coordination with one another, towards a shared goal.

This is called “a state of emergent, adaptive organizational intelligence—shared consciousness.”

In a business environment, effective, or “sticky” change, requires leaders to clearly describe the battle plan to their teams, as well as the very specific roles and expectations of each team. Once the process change work begins, leaders MUST be willing to depend on their highly-trained, experienced teams to execute the plan—to make decisions and to own the outcomes of the work.

Whether in the military or in business, teams must be skilled and highly practiced in their roles.

Speed comes from effectively empowering your teams on the “front lines” to make decisions based on their read of the circumstances. 

Too often “empowerment” fails because leaders 1) do not effectively create and manage a process that builds shared consciousness across their business and 2) do not provide the training, expectations, and accountability to their teams to ensure those teams perform at the high level necessary to win.