Tag Archives: Decision Making

Is your business delivering real outcomes, or is it a slave to your procedures…?

I was at a restaurant with some friends this past weekend. Upon arrival, our table was not yet ready, so we were invited to wait in the bar whilst the table was turned over. So, we go to order a few drinks. Amongst the array of tap beers on offer was a pre-mixed spirit… So, we ordered one, however my mate wanted it served without ice… “No can do” says the bar staff, “it must be served with ice.” What? Why? we ask. “Not sure” says the staff member, “however we have been told that we are not allowed to serve this drink without ice.” Astounded at this response, my friend cancelled that order, walked around the bar to the other side and ordered the same mixed spirit measured and poured from a bottle, without ice, and predictably, received his wish, no questions asked.

Now, I’ll admit that this scenario is by no means high stakes in comparison to others that may come to mind, however it is intensely frustrating to experience and does illustrate a common and fundamental problem with business and process design and execution… the over-emphasis on procedural compliance and the resulting degradation of value and outcomes for the customer.

When you reflect on a business rule and procedure such as this one, there are only a limited number of reasons one can think of that would drive such a policy…
1. The manufacturer has arbitrarily determined the serving method to be enforced by the retailer at the point of sale,
2. The retailer benefits from mandating the serving method, ie: higher profit margin, or
3. The retailer has simply not thought about the impacts of their process/policy… and the staff are not empowered to intervene to deliver a better experience.

Any which way you look at it however, it is a poor outcome. And to me, this extends far deeper than ineffective process and procedure design. To remain relevant, businesses must get smarter about how they deliver upon their strategies. Whether inadvertent or otherwise, businesses approaching their operations in the manner described above can expect to suffer a long and slow, self-inflicted death by a thousand cuts, brought on by a lack of focus on the outcomes generated for their customers.

“…For customers to receive full value and optimal outcomes, the traditional process design paradigm must be shifted. Enabling the best outcome for every customer must become the primary driver of the process. Policy boundaries must be considered as enablers of value, rather than just as risk controls and constraints, and staff must have the delegations and empowerment to work within these policy boundaries to deliver the best result possible…”

The whole point of process design is to deliver better outcomes… but whether it’s the search for consistency of service delivery, lack of management trust in employees to make good decisions, or a workplace culture that values procedural compliance ahead of the customer outcome, process design, in many cases, has ironically become the reason why customers receive poor experiences. Additionally, process and procedure design phases are often implemented prior to, or in lieu of, interpretation and integration of strategy with the execution layer of the business. This has the effect of further de-prioritising outcomes and value, as the mode of operational execution is determined prior to the business gaining a consistent understanding of the desired outcomes and the best way to deliver their products, services or value proposition.

To date, the most common definition of a ‘process’ I’ve come across is… “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular outcome.” It is important to remember that the critical purpose of any process is to achieve an outcome. The actions or steps taken throughout the process should therefore be driven by the intended outcome… not the other way around. Too often however, outcomes are overlooked, and the emphasis of process design is placed on carrying out the series of specified tasks or steps. Compounding this, many businesses then monitor procedural compliance as a measure of the performance of their people. For many processes, this level of compliance assurance is appropriate, however for a great deal of processes, this drives the wrong delivery behaviours, and when the customer outcome required does not perfectly align with the pre-determined process or procedure, there is little chance of a satisfactory result.

For customers to receive full value and optimal outcomes, the traditional process design paradigm must be shifted. Enabling the best outcome for every customer must become the primary driver of the process. Policy boundaries must be considered as enablers of value, rather than risk controls and constraints, and staff must have the delegations and empowerment to work within these policy boundaries to deliver the best result possible. Finally, the process design must be flexible enough to allow adaptations to be made when required so that all customer scenarios can be addressed appropriately. This may mean that the same process could be delivered differently to many different customers. Remember, if the ultimate aim is to deliver the best outcome, then the elements that must change to enable that are the tasks and steps executed in the process… a concept foreign to the majority of process modelling and workflow execution toolsets currently available.

In response to the need for more adaptive and empowering ways to deliver value, I have partnered with Inventec Australia to assist the design and development of SENCILO, an adaptive, outcome-led, value delivery platform. SENCILO enables the deployment of flexible business processes that allow real time adaptations of the process flow based on each individual scenario encountered and the established business policy boundaries. This platform is a shift away from traditional process design and workflow solutions, not only because it allows the user to configure multiple delivery path options for every process, but also allows for the sequence and ordering of tasks to be adapted to the scenario at hand, in real time. SENCILO is a 100% cloud-based platform, and combines business-friendly, low-code configuration, detachable and modular componentry, and multiple, flexible subscription pricing options.

Visit the link below or contact us for more information on how we can help you deliver real outcomes.

Decision Shock… and how you can eliminate it from your business

Decisions made and disregarded or overturned… Decision paralysis… Over-escalation of decision making to management… Disagreement and conflict over impacts… Reducing engagement levels.

Sound familiar? We call this ‘decision shock’ and it is all too common a phenomenon.  And considering that most businesses are now operating in markets and environments that punish indecision, rework and inertia, it is a phenomenon that necessitates a re-think about how decisions are guided, made and communicated within organisations.

Broadly speaking, there are three main types of decisions encountered in most businesses…
Strategic decisions – These decisions are reasonably infrequent, but significantly impact the direction of the organisation, have major and long-term implications to how the business operates every day, and once made, are not easily undone.
Operational decisions – These decisions require leaders and staff to interpret a scenario or inputs, contextualise and take a position in order to maintain operational momentum… often in response to unforeseen scenarios, or changes in the environment. Decisions around product design, pricing, purchasing, marketing, project planning, campaigns and promotions or risk management are all examples of operational decisions. These decisions are far more frequent and are critical in ensuring the organisation stays true to its strategic intent.
Cumulative BAU decisions – These decisions are most often based upon pre-determined policies, procedures and delegations. In theory, the sum total of every one of these smaller scale decisions should reflect a broader policy direction or strategic position.

Whilst Strategic decisions invariably receive the greatest amount of consideration and thought, a lack of relatable context and linkage of these decisions to the operational layers of the business often contribute to decision shock that stalls the understanding and adoption of change, delays progress and halts momentum.

When viewed in isolation, the impact of each smaller Cumulative BAU decision can seem less significant, but given the high volumes, the cumulative effect of these decisions can dramatically alter the outcomes for the organisation. In theory, these decisions should be simple… follow the policy and the end result should line up as you planned, right?.  However, often businesses find themselves way off course due to minor deviations from policy and discretionary exceptions that seem perfectly legitimate in isolation, but when combined with every other exception made, drive the operation miles away from the intended destination. The results of this phenomenon often only become apparent when reviewing quarterly or annual results long after the damage is done.  A death by a thousand painless cuts.

“…In many cases, the right decision will be plainly obvious as the operating model principles paint a clear picture of what success looks like for the decision maker…”

Arguably the most difficult decisions however, are the Operational decisions.  More often than not, your operational staff and their leaders are expected to take responsibility for these decisions.  The reality is however that most leaders and staff are simply not equipped with adequate strategic context and therefore lack the confidence to make the critical decisions expected of them, leading to the types of issues I mentioned at the top of this post.  Worse still, many experience damaging blowback when their decisions are perceived to be incorrect or ill-conceived.  The negative impacts to self-confidence, performance appraisal and engagement can be long lasting, and sadly the real cause of the issue is seldom recognised.

Getting any of these decisions right, relies on those making the decisions to:

  • have a clear understanding of how to interpret and operationalise the business strategy and vision,
  • be in perfect alignment with all other linked or impacted areas of the business, and
  • formulate the decision based on the insights and information available.

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Without operating model principles, your strategy and vision are just words on a page…

“To be the provider of choice for…” “To offer a superior service to our chosen markets…” “To be the market leader in…” The vision sounds fantastic. But what now? What does it really mean to the way your business operates, and how do your people align what they are doing every minute of every day to deliver on that vision?

There’s no question in our minds, vision statements are critical. They set the direction and tone for an organisation, focus attention, and make great mouse pads. But underneath that is an even more critical level of information – your operating model principles. When defined well, a clear operating model makes everyday decision making simple for every team member, provides unambiguous clarity of purpose, and gives every stakeholder a tangible understanding of exactly how the vision and strategy will come to life through every interaction and every process. Even with the clearest of visions, organisations that fail to define their operating model principles can experience misinterpretation of their strategy, inconsistent decision making, failed deliverables, confused customers and even more confused staff.

Whether you’ve defined your strategy and vision for your company, your system transformation program, or for the next five years of growth, to truly bring your people along with you and help them create a tangible identity with what they are employed to achieve, your staff also need a tangible, clear and unambiguous set of principles with which they can make predictable and consistent decisions, think and create safely, work autonomously, and act with confidence. A well defined operating model will enable all of that.

In return, you will receive greater empowerment and ownership from your people; the volume of everyday decisions required to be made by your managers and leaders will reduce; and your business will work more harmoniously and efficiently and with less conflict and friction.

“…Even with the clearest of visions, organisations that fail to define their operating model principles experience misinterpretation of their strategy, inconsistent decision making, failed deliverables, confused customers and even more confused staff…”


The operating models we develop address the following seven key principle categories. The examples below are of course, not exhaustive, but illustrate the type of thinking we use to bring your strategy and vision to life. Not only do these principles articulate what your business will be, but also, where applicable, what it will not be.

Customers and People – these principles describe exactly what customers and industry segments you want to do business with; how your customers will/should/must experience their journey or interaction with your business; how your staff will treat them; and what the customer can expect from you if things don’t go to plan. These principles also describe how it will feel for your staff to work within your organisation.

Products and Services – what are the products and/or services you will offer (and avoid offering); how should they be designed to behave; how should your customers experience them; how should they compliment each other; how will they compete with your competitors; how will you achieve growth; and how will you win?

Channels of delivery – how will your customers interact with you; what options will be available to them; how will you keep up with emerging trends and technology; and how will your multiple channels integrate with each other?

Processes – how will your people execute their functions; what will be their role in decision making; how much automation do you require/desire; how will you ensure efficiency; how should processes be designed; how should your staff and customers experience those processes; and what is your approach to continuous improvement?

Information and Data – what information do you need to deliver your strategy and vision; how will you store and use the information and data you have gathered; what role will it play in delivering superior products and services; and can your customer benefit from the information and insights you have collected?

Technology – what system capabilities do you need to meet your goals; what is your appetite for emerging technology; what is your tolerance for multiple systems and interfaces; how will your systems and platforms integrate together; how do you protect your customers and your business; and how will you maintain and upgrade your technology?

Capabilities & Culture – How does your business need to be structured to succeed; what are the management and leadership capabilities required; what are the key skills required by your people in order to deliver your strategy and vision; what capabilities do you expect your customers to possess in order for them to succeed with your products/services; what mix of human talent and diversity do you aspire to; how will your staff experience being employed; what is the culture you require/expect within the business?

These operating model principles then become the foundation that supports the design or transformation of the organisation, layer by layer, and shape decision making across your entire business. Your managers, leaders and team members can all validate their thinking and everyday decisioning against an unambiguous set of principles that all drive action that compliments your intended vision and your strategy. Furthermore, these same principles can be used and adapted to the design of a project or program of work, a specific value chain or even a single operational process, ensuring that at both the macro and micro levels of your business, there is an agreed, understood and integrated operating model defining the way you do business every day, and elevating the strategy and vision from your page to your reality.

Why do my people ignore the process map? The role of policy in delivering superior outcomes…

It’s not laziness, and it’s certainly not because they don’t care. Your people, either consciously or intuitively, know when a process is ineffective or inefficient, and they also know when those processes are hurting your customers’ experience. People deviate from a defined business process, because the majority of the time, it’s either the best thing to do, or the right thing to do for the customer and the business.

Look around your workplace. Chances are 99% of your people take pride in their work and genuinely care about the result for their customers… hopefully more than 99%. If you ask them why they don’t follow a certain process, expect to hear “…that process doesn’t make sense”; “…it doesn’t work with that scenario”; “…the process is more about us doing business with ourselves, than with the customer”, “…it’s just not an efficient process” or variations thereof. They deviate because they care, and to make your business better.

Over the last 15 years I’ve polled countless people as to the reasons why the focus on process fails to resonate with them, and overwhelmingly they respond that:

  • processes are often designed in a way that stifles their ability to provide ‘the best outcome’ for the customer in front of them,
  • processes that consider only a single planned outcome can disempower staff, and poorly designed processes contribute significantly to disengagement, and
  • processes designed with “efficiency” in mind, often shut out autonomous decision making and discretion that could be applied to resolve process-customer conflict on the spot.

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Do you really need to make that decision? The path to empowerment and discretionary time.

As a leader or a manager, it’s your job to make decisions, right? Some, absolutely, but consider this… a large proportion of the decisions you are making may be holding your customers up, costing you valuable time, and ultimately contributing to staff disengagement.

Reflect for a moment on all the decisions you’ve made today, this week, this year. First, reflect on how many decisions you made around assessing, setting and validating your strategic direction, or your operating model in response to market changes, or where your growth will come from next year? These are certainly the decisions you should and must be engaged in – you should be living and breathing these. Now reflect on the rest… Were they related to interpreting policy, resolving a basic customer complaint, a price discount, positioning stock, designing a new product feature? If you’re a sole trader, you’re excused. For everyone else, ask yourself, how much time am I spending in this space? And if I am making these decisions, how are my staff feeling?… Is my intervention dis-empowering them from performing their roles end to end.

“…People who are empowered to make the decisions related to executing their roles, have higher job satisfaction, are more likely to stay with your organisation, are more fulfilled in their work, and more likely to deliver better outcomes for customers and your business…”

Chances are these operational decisions are not hard to determine, and most likely your staff know instinctively what the decision should be… if given the opportunity to think it through. Moreover, the vast majority of decisions referred to leaders and managers can easily be converted into a standard policy, discussed and trained with your staff, and utilised on demand by your people, on the spot with the customer.

There is overwhelming evidence suggesting that people who are empowered to make the decisions related to executing their roles, have higher job satisfaction, are more likely to stay with your organisation, are more fulfilled in their work, and more likely to deliver better outcomes for customers and your business.

The challenge for managers and leaders is to let go of the control, and trust that your people can, and will, make the decision you would make. This is where your policies are critical, not your processes or procedures. The time investment in developing and embedding coherent, end-to-end policies that capture the true intent and the boundaries around each customer interaction, process and decision point, will set your operation up to be a far more efficient, empowered and engaged work environment.

The payoff for leaders willing to implement this culture and capability, is reduced stress and precious time that can be reinvested into the forward thinking and critical directional and strategic decisions that keep the business competitive and ready for the next wave of change. You’ll also create time for the investment in development of your staff… so often overlooked or de-prioritised, but equally critical for your long-term viability.

It’s been said many times that “decisions are made by those who show up”. Just remember, you’re not the only one who showed up for work… your staff are already in position, and you’ve got other important things to do.