On Tuesday, December 11, 2012, I attended NY Intrapreneur: Innovation in the Enterprise’s event, The Six Phases of Effective Decision Making. Doug Sundheim was presenting to help the intrapreneurs make effective and quality decisions and develop trust throughout their teams.
Doug Sundheim is an organizational consultant with over 20 years experience in growing businesses and helping others do the same. His clients include Morgan Stanley, Harvard Management Company, Chubb Corporation, Citigroup, University of Chicago and more.
An intrapreneur is a person within a large company who takes ideas into finished products through assertive risk-taking and innovation. In order to do this, the intrapreneur must make effective decisions. “What do leaders need to do to get their decisions in line?” Sundheim asked the audience. “It needs to be a balance between strategy and leadership. They’re both meaningless without context.”
Sundheim listed a few unique challenges that intrapreneurs face. “There’s no ‘burning out’ platform to drive decisions for intrapreneurs,” he said. “When you’re entrepreneurs, it’s do or die, but for intrapreneurs, it’s do or lumber along.” Another challenge is well-entrenched processes: “Entrepreneurs create things from scratch. Intrapreneurs make decisions that disrupt existing processes.” There are also many stakeholders that hold the intrapreneurs back due to uncomfortability with taking risks. There’s a ‘Don’t rock the boat’ culture in these large firms, but of course, with entrepreneurs, their reason is to rock the boat.”Larger firms are more uncomfortable with risks,” Sundheim said. “All of this leads to slow, often ineffective decision making.”
Sundheim listed four common contributing factors to poor decision-making: 1) Unclear about which decisions are being made. 2) Unclear timing surrounding issues. 3) Unclear decision rights. 4) Unclear decision-making process.
To go around this, he introduced a model that could be used from anywhere from five to 30,000 employees. “This is a pretty generic model,” Sundheim said. The model, called MAIN is to make sure decisions are made quickly and efficiently and with quality. Make—an individual or group with the right to make a decision or issue. Approve—an individual or group approves or vetoes decision. Input—an individual or group with relevant background or expertise who should be approached to provide data and information. Notify—an individual or group should be informed of key decisions and underlying rationale.
Sundheim talked about trust and decision-making. “Relationship between trust and decision-making is linear. If trust is high, the quality and speed of decisions made are optimal. If trust is low, then the quality and the speed is low,” he said. “Work hard to build trust and that will lead to fast and quality decision-making.” He also said, “There is a difference between building trust and maintaining trust. People usually think that you just build trust, but that’s not true. You need to maintain it, like a house. You build a house and you let it sit there and let it crumble? Trust is a lot like that, you need to maintain it. If there are instances where you feel uneasy about the person, talk about it, help grow the trust and maintain it.”
“There are four elements to establishing trust. Only one of these elements has to be low for the trust to feel low,” Sundheim said. “Competence, reliability, motive, and openness/quality of communication.”
To develop effective organized decision-making, there are six phases that must be carried out: 1) Engage: frame your decision. 2) Explore: gain a deeper understanding of issues. 3) Expand: test limits of thinking, pushing each other’s point of views. 4) Distinguish: understand the few truly viable alternatives available. 5) Decide: align on the best strategic choice given the alternatives. 6) Define: define direction forwards and plan for communication and execution.
“The efficacy of decision-making impacts morale and confidence in an organization,” Sundheim said.