Getting Stuff Done

Decisions from afar

Make better decisions through consistent collaboration

For whatever reason this morning, I went off-topic in a Rands conversation about hiring people in Latin and South America and distributing decision-making.

I brought up the diversion because as organizations begin hiring outside of their locality, their operations will fundamentally have to adapt. Yet, most places don’t seem to recognize such until they’re stuck somehow.

That mechanism for getting people to come together to decide things was introduced to me several years ago in Jim Whitehurst’s book, The Open Organization. In particular, chapter 6, Making Inclusive Decisions.

Back then, I remained part of the old crusty crowd who made decisions in the clouds and passed them onto others to get done.

Eventually, after some hard conversations and severe failures, I realized that I couldn’t support the collaborative culture we wanted at work. Togetherness only happened when I stepped back and got more people’s feedback about how they would like to proceed.

During the changes, several concerns were on my mind.

  1. We’re slowing down decision making
  2. Now I have to make everyone happy
  3. I’m feeling frustrated at the delays

Only two of three are true, slowing down and being frustrated. Both of these are actually positive things because this change is good.

On the falsehood of making everyone happy, it’s more about giving people a safe place to be heard and feel respected. It’s not about doing whatever people want.

While I strongly believe in Jeff Besos’ concept of high-velocity decision making, I’ve come to learn that it really means high-velocity outcomes. And that only happens when you allow people to come together, understand the intention and situation, and collaborate.

By opening up the discussion to a broader audience, the people that care will often speak up and provide context to their thoughts. And through that, leadership becomes informed towards making better choices.

The process to share with a broader audience is a significant part of why a decision takes longer to happen. Through questions and answers with the larger audience, the people who speak up also fully understand the decision’s context. However, the decision that’s made ultimately better fits the organizational needs, and people are typically supportive of making it happen.

Through people’s support to implement the decision, it does not matter that decision making takes longer as the decision’s outcome is now more successful.

So, let there be no more executive decisions of changing to an ERP over a weekend and foisting it upon others to make happen. Through an open forum, it’s decided that the current tools will remain in place. While a few people get together to simplify and automate interactions and processes into more reliable systems. Thereby preventing the headaches causing the desire to go with an ERP in the first place.

Interestingly, I’ve found a way to turn the high-velocity decision-making process into a system.

Open discussions are kicked off using a Google Form to collect topical information, create a Slack channel for that subject, announce the conversation in #general (a company-wide channel), and suggest conversational reminders.

All of which are automatically handled by Zapier

As we have things to talk about, people have a consistent means to contribute and influence than worry about infrastructure and audits. Plus, no more note taking because historical archives are created in real-time.

To encourage people to join the conversations, a reminder is sent a few days later in #general. Further, within the topical channel, the submitter is suggested to follow up every week or two, plus reminded in six-weeks to wrap up the discussions.

For these open discussions, as the topical channel is there for when people are ready to contribute, there’s no to remind folks more than weekly. More frequent reminders cause stress because people are busy enough.

As a consideration, after two or three weeks of discussions, you might create a poll of preferred options to help people finalize conversations towards a decision.

By taking many of our decision making conversations offline or asynchronous, we’ve drastically cut back on related meetings and ego clashes. And, when it comes to implementing decisions, the complaint factor and feet-dragging is drastically reduced.

Now, when meetings happen, we’re spending time discussing and deciding upon lower-impact aspects much more quickly.

Recent examples of our open discussions include altering leave benefits for COVID-19 affected folks, moving from single to multiple device reimbursements, and bringing about variable compensation.

With more people participating in the conversations, we’re building a stronger organization that I’m continually proud to be a part of.

Feel free to steal my #disc- Conversation Creator Zapier automation reading Google Sheets via a Google Form into Slack.

By Michael Cannon

Boundless Virgo water-rat, Drusus & Jace's nearby dad, for @Axelerant's success, of conscious choices & simple living by kindness through curiosity & reflection

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