change management

16
CRM for Fun and Profit, Part II: Costs

CRM for Fun and Profit, Part II: Costs

Some time ago I was at a Microsoft Convergence conference and was immersed in all things CRM. During one discussion the topic of the costs of CRM implementations came up. I distinctly remember one of the comments.

“The trouble with CRM projects is that the first 80% of the project takes the first 80% of the budget and the remaining 20% of the project takes the other 80%.”

I recall that we all had a pretty good laugh over this.

Like most humor, it’s funny because it’s true. The typical CRM project costs more than originally expected.

I think there are a few reasons for this. The first is most of us are unreasonably optimistic and tend to underestimate the complexity of the average project. This just doesn’t apply to CRM projects – it’s virtually every technology project. (See Management by Wishful Thinking for background on why this occurs.) Invest some time and though in the planning process in order to combat this.

A second reason is that companies try to go it alone and don’t get expert help. It is very difficult to get it right the first time; contracting some expert help can minimize the risk greatly.

A third (and biggest) reason is that the scope of CRM projects become broader than originally planned. There are several factors that influence this.

Business Processes: Your company probably has its business processes documented and there’s a good chance that they reside in some dusty binders resting on an obscure shelf somewhere. The challenge is that they are likely out of date. Processes change fairly regularly and unless your company is extremely diligent the documentation doesn’t necessarily get updated. And these are just the formal changes. Users develop their own shortcuts and workarounds and these never get documented. The processes in those binders are at best an approximation of what actually happens. So you are going to have to spend some extra time understanding the current state of your processes.
Organization: It’s not just business processes. To get the maximum benefit from CRM you have to make sure the culture and philosophy of the organization are themselves customer centric. Companies that are implementing CRM for the first time typically aren’t focused on the customer – they are focused on whatever product or service they offer the customer. The journey to becoming customer-centric is longer and harder than expected.
Another organizational consideration is who owns the customer? I have seen CRM create turf wars in organizations over ownership of the customer. Sales? Marketing? Customer Service? Does the regional office or national office own the customer? CRM requires a customer engagement strategy where this type of thing is defined in detail, or else your customers could be bombarded by disconnected messaging from various functions in your organization. Developing this strategy takes time and money.

People: Winning the hearts and mind of the users can be difficult. It’s great that CRM is good for the company, but what’s in it for them? There will be resistance because the implementation of CRM is creating a new area of subject matter expertise and likely diminishing the importance of some existing subject areas. That’s a difficult situation for the present subject matter experts. Change is always hard – it can be helped along by providing compelling explanations of the benefits that the users will get from CRM. Make sure that end-user training is complete and answers the ‘why’ questions as well as the ‘how’. Also remember that CRM can give you a lot of information on end-user productivity and that attention is not always welcome. The bottom line is that training and education will be a larger effort than you originally anticipated.

Integration: Most CRM systems are integrated with existing systems and data. Integration with existing systems is harder than you think it will be. There’s a number of reasons for this. It’s likely that, like your business processes, your current systems and data are inadequately documented. The effort to better understand your current state will again be larger than expected.

Once you understand what you have there is the issue of data quality. Data quality has numerous properties that need to be considered (accuracy, validity, timeliness, consistency and completeness). The older your data the greater the likelihood that a data quality effort will need to occur before this data can be integrated into the CRM system. This is not a trivial effort.
One more thought about integration – there are actually two integration efforts that need to be considered. The first is the initial data load, the second is the periodic (daily, weekly or whatever) update/refresh. The efforts are similar but different; plan to manage them as two separate and distinct efforts.

Security: CRM collects (and generates) a *lot* of data. It needs to be managed and safeguarded. Regardless of whether it’s on-premise or in the cloud, security, confidentiality and privacy of data is a big deal and by implementing CRM you have just made it bigger, particularly if any of the data is being exposed to the internet through a portal. Protecting the CRM data from unauthorized access from both internal and external sources needs to be considered part of the project.

Success: Success can be a problem. Once the business community starts to better see the benefits of CRM there will be pressure to broaden existing functionality or add additional capabilities. There will be demands to broaden scope and start adding these additional capabilities immediately, particularly if you are implementing CRM in a series of small releases. Indiscriminately adding scope to the project is an easy way to turn a 12 month project into one that takes 18 months. Ensure that you have a robust change control process defined or you may find yourself with a project that never ends.

CRM is worthwhile investment but it’s good to start with your eyes wide open. There are aspects to CRM projects that aren’t readily apparent at first glance; missing these can lead to increased costs, extended durations, unfulfilled expectations and general disappointment.

And who wants that?

photo credit: photosteve101 via photopin cc

04
Towards consulting success: six essential behaviours

Towards consulting success: six essential behaviours

I’ve worked in the IT and financial services industry for almost 35 years and I’ve worked with a lot of consultants. A seriously astounding number. Mind-boggling, actually. They’ve come in all shapes and sizes ranging from independents to teams of consultants from the Big 4 firms. Men and women, new graduates and grizzled veterans, native born and new Canadians. Some had a list of designations on their business card that was as long as my arm, others had none. Taken together, they’re a varied and diverse cross-section of society; you wouldn’t think that they would have something in common. But the vast majority did, and that realization is a bitter pill to swallow.

What was it that they had in common? Simply this: what they produced wasn’t worth the money we paid them.

That’s a really harsh judgement and I don’t want to tar all of them with the same brush. Some of the consultants that I worked with were absolute delights. They had the skills, expertise and knowledge coupled with the right attitude. They worked hard and cared about the outcome. They taught me a lot about business, how to get stuff done, how to work cooperatively and about accountability. They helped us succeed in our endeavors, and if we didn’t succeed it was no fault of theirs. Their fees were money well spent.

On the other hand, there was a much larger group that didn’t really have the impact on the business that they should have had. I wish I understood why, but they were lacking something that ended up making their engagement less than it should have been. We usually realized a nominal benefit, but in the worst cases we were just a meal ticket for them; their objective was to squeeze as much money out of the organization as they could for as long as possible.

This taught me to take a rather cynical attitude towards most consultants.

In hindsight, the fault was not with the consultants – it lay with our organization. Our onboarding process was lackadaisical at best. Once onboard, we didn’t manage them properly. We were too willing to accept substandard work and insufficient effort. It was our duty to be informed consumers and we weren’t. We should have demanded better. Caveat emptor isn’t just something that you learn in a high school business class, it’s a principle that’s worth following.

That was then; now I find myself in a rather peculiar situation. I have gone over to the dark side. I am one of them – a consultant. I feel a little bit like I’m living the Talking Heads ‘Once in a Lifetime’; asking myself, “Well…How did I get here?”

That’s question has a long answer and it’s not all that relevant. What’s more important to me is determining what it means to be an effective consultant? What are the best practices that I should follow in order to have my clients look back on the engagement and feel my fees were a good investment and not an unnecessary expense?

I’ve concluded that the best way to ensure that I’m viewed as an asset is to imagine I’m a client and ask myself what behaviours I would like to see in a consultant who works for me. What do they need to do to demonstrate in order for me to trust their judgement? What would make me want to re-engage them on another initiative? I’ve arrived at six. (What you won’t find in the list are attributes like honesty or an ethical nature. These are necessary – not having them is a dealbreaker.)

1.    Know your client

Financial institutions all over the world have ‘know your customer’ regulations in place. Part of the reason is to ensure that money laundering activity isn’t taking place, but a more important reason is to ensure that the services and products being recommended to the client are suitable – this isn’t possible without the appropriate information being gathered first.

Consultants need to do this as well.

You need to understand both the client and his business. In most cases they aren’t looking for you to be a business expert, but they do need someone who has a fundamental understanding of their business, its basic operation and the environment in which it operates – regulatory, competitive and the like.

You also need to be able to look at all of this from the client’s perspective. Understanding the client and the business situation that they find themselves in is a prerequisite for a successful engagement.

Having a degree of empathy towards the client isn’t a bad idea either.

Understand that most clients want a relationship and they want the relationship to be based on a mutual sense of trust between you and the client. It requires a great deal of trust on their part to allow someone to change how their business operates, regardless of whether it’s the organizational structure, process or technology. Trust is one of the keys to success, and you won’t get to trust without a relationship.

If I am undertaking a change initiative, the outcome of which will have consequences to both me and my organization I need to have a relationship with the individual with whom I am working; I need to trust them. In the long term, the relationship may actually be more important to me than the actual work, because it’s likely that the relationship will endure after the change initiative is finished. I want a relationship. I need you, the leader of the change initiative, to have a really clear understanding of what I want (and perhaps more importantly, what I need). I need to know that you are operating in my best interests.

Know your client in order to develop a working relationship based on trust.

2.    Be transparent

Clarity is important. In this age of political correctness there is the pressure to take pertinent facts and couch them in language that obscures their true meaning. Problems become ‘opportunities’ or ‘challenges’, defects become ‘bugs’ or ‘glitches’ and failures become ‘opportunities for learning’. (It makes my head spin sometimes.) Avoid the temptation to obfuscate; instead, be as crystal clear as possible. Report both good and bad news objectively, dispassionately and accurately.

This is also an excellent way to build trust. Be transparent for long enough in both your reporting and your behaviours and over time the client will learn to trust in you completely. Be transparent in your actions.

You also need to demonstrate transparency in your motives. It’s reasonable to make recommendations that may result in additional work in the future as long as those recommendations are made in the best interest the client and their organization. The client may even welcome them if they are closely aligned with this vision for the future. What they don’t need are proposals for work that is speculative or seem to be a make work project to keep you employed.

3.    Act in a way that inspires confidence

For me, a consultant needs to demonstrate three characteristics for me to have confidence in them: aptitude, attitude and availability.

Aptitude is skill set and expertise. This is quite likely why you were hired in the first place; you have demonstrated that you have the knowledge of how to do the work and the proficiency to actually get it done. Just remember you don’t know everything (and that the client doesn’t expect you know everything) but never say the works ‘I don’t know’ without immediately adding ‘but I’ll find out’ afterwards.

There are few things that can erode a client’s confidence faster than not having the right attitude. While a consultant is with client they need to demonstrate that the initiative they are working on with the client is the most vital thing they are doing. Even if the engagement is small and straightforward and you could do it in your sleep if it is important to the client – it needs to be important to you. It’s actually much easier to demonstrate engagement on an initiative that is a challenge, because it makes you work harder, employ more of your skills and likely take more of a directive leadership style. A positive attitude towards the initiative reinforces to the client that they made the correct decision in hiring you – an indifferent (or worse) attitude says the opposite.

Finally, be available. You need to give the client the ability to engage you according to their needs, not yours. This may mean a few calls at inopportune times, but in the long run it builds the trust and relationship between you and the client. You don’t need to be their nursemaid, but making yourself available outside of the agreed to times just strengthens the relationship.

(How not to act – a true story. We had engaged a consultant to make a recommendation on moving forward with a certain software package. When it came time to review the draft findings, a bunch of us gathered in a meeting room with the consultant. The content of the report was fine, but about 15 minutes into the meeting it the consultant’s phone rang. He answered the phone, began talking (it was clearly another client), gets up and leaves. He came back in about 5 minutes, issued a brief apology and started back into the findings like nothing had happened. At that point how confident was I that he was working in my best interests?)

4.    Build an enduring partnership

In a partnership people cooperate in order to advance their mutual interests.

The client’s primary interest is to get the initiative completed successfully, but what is the consultant’s primary interest?

It’s tempting to say that it’s the delivery of the initiative, but I actually believe that that’s a secondary concern. I feel this way because I think that, in general, if the engagement has been structured properly and all the due diligence has been done the outcome should never really be in doubt. (If neither of those have been done then both the client and the consultant are taking on a lot of risk).

The primary interest of the consultant should be the next engagement, and the engagement after that, and the engagement after that. Don’t think that the client doesn’t want the same thing, because he does. Sourcing a consultant can be a time consuming task; His life becomes easier if he has a ‘go-to guy’ that he can engage when needed. Be that guy (or gal) because it makes your life easier too.

5.    Find the right solutions

There is a multitude of solutions for every problem. Some will be great, some will be good and some will be questionable at best.   It’s your job to sort through the options and recommend the right solution to the problem at hand. But what makes a solution ‘right’?

Minimize complexity. Complexity is a killer because it isn’t a one-time cost. The costs associated with complexity endure long after the change initiative is complete; they become a permanent fixture on the bottom line of the organization. Strive for simplicity. Make the solution as simple as possible but not necessarily simple.

The right solution is both scalable and extensible.   Prepare for success; make sure that your solution can handle additional volume and a broader scope.

The right solution is cost effective. I have worked on some change initiatives where the cost was not really a consideration; there seemed to be an endless bucket of money. One would think that removing cost constraints would make the change initiative easier but that’s not necessarily the case. What tends to happen is that avenues get explored that should remain closed; money starts to be spent on efforts that are speculative with little payback, resulting in an overall loss of focus. The right solution gets lost in the noise of all the less-right (or downright wrong) solutions.

Lack of funds is equally troubling. Even if the right solution is found, the tendency is to take shortcuts and pare back the functionality until the solution is hobbled; the objective of the initiative becomes ‘spend as little as possible’ rather than focusing on the value that the investment will generate.

And the generation of value is really the ultimate goal. The right solution articulates the value clearly and starts to realize that value as soon as possible.

The right solution cares about quality. A long time ago (1972!) there was a TV commercial for Fram oil filters; the tagline was you can pay me now or you can pay me later.

 

It’s like that with many software projects. Defects that should have been addressed as part of project are just deferred and they become operational issues that cost more and taken longer to fix than they would have if they were just fixed when they should have been. The right solution minimizes defects before the solution is implemented, not after.

6.    Demonstrate the value you bring

The best way to demonstrate your value is by succeeding – by delivering the initiative as planned. However, I don’t think that’s enough – success should be the minimum target that you aim for.

Here are some other ways you can demonstrate your value.

Display a sense of urgency. Time is money and it’s your job to help the client move forward whenever the tendency to procrastinate sets it. Sometimes it’s hard to close doors; the fear of making the wrong decision can paralyze the entire process so that no decision ever gets make. Allow some time for sober second thought but keep things moving.

And, somewhat paradoxically, be patient. Whenever an organization is undergoing change the stress level of the staff increases. Even small changes can ramp up the level of anxiety to intolerable heights. Your advantage is that you have done this before and lived to tell about it; by displaying patience and calmness you can help diminish their fears and help them refocus on the tasks at hand.

Take the opportunity to teach and mentor. This is a value-add that is extraordinarily easy to accomplish. Either the client or one or two of the staff will be eager to learn how to do what you do; take the time to explain your thought processes, maybe even delegate some of the work to them. Teachable moments abound on every consulting engagement; take advantage of them.

Finally, go above and beyond. Do more than is expected – there are no rules against delivering extra value to the client.

Six behaviours. I actually started with eleven; I was able to distill them down to a smaller number the more I thought about it. But I was unable to get to fewer than six. I was actually hoping to be able to reduce it down to one or two behaviours but in retrospect that wasn’t reasonable. There isn’t a single best practice that a consultant can follow to ensure success; the typical consulting engagement requires a larger toolbox than that. But supplementing your consulting methods with these six behaviours will go a long way to ensuring success.

photo credit: iammikeb via photopin cc

06
How to make better decisions

How to make better decisions

Can a fighter pilot can teach us something about decision-making? For a long time I viewed a decision as a point-in-time event. It seemed pretty straightforward – gather the pertinent facts, consider them and then make the decision. I was much more concerned that the decision was made rather than how it was made; any delay in making a decision would impact my project schedule and I sure didn’t want that to happen. Over the years I learned to better prepare the decision makers, and I learned to build some slack into the schedule around decision milestones. It wasn’t until I looked back at some of the decisions made, by both myself and others, and realized that while some very good decisions were made, there were quite a few that were sub-optimal, and other decisions were just plain bad. I wondered if following a generic decision making process or framework could improve the quality of decisions. This brings us to John Boyd. John Boyd was a fighter pilot who served in the Korean War. He was also a mathematician, an aircraft designer, a military analyst, a historian and a philosopher. His accomplishments include being:

  • Widely acknowledged as being the best fighter pilot in the history of the USAF
  • An air-to-air combat tactician
  • Directly responsible for design of the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-18 Hornet
  • Indirectly responsible for the design of the A-10 Thunderbolt
  • A military strategist – one of the primary planners of Desert Storm (the 1991 invasion of Iraq)
  • A major contributor to the study of decision theory

His work on decision theory started when he looked at the outcomes of aerial dogfights between the American F-86 and the Russian MIG-15 in the later stages of the Korean War. In comparing the two planes, the MIG-15 had a higher top speed, a greater operational ceiling and a better turning ratio; three capabilities that should have stacked the odds in favour of the Russian plane. But the actual kill ratios were close to 14:1 in favour of the American plane. An easy assumption to make was that the skill of the American pilots was the deciding factor, but that not the case. The study concluded that there were two design elements of the F-86 that resulted in the lopsided results: a bubble canopy and a fully hydraulic control system. The bubble canopy gave the pilot better visibility and allowed him to gather more complete information before he made a decision. The hydraulic control system allowed the plane to react more quickly to the pilot’s commands once the decision was made. The combination of better informed decisions and accelerated execution resulted in devastating superiority in combat situations. Boyd continued with this train of thought; over the ensuing years he developed a decision support construct that he called ‘The OODA Loop’. It’s also known as ‘the decision cycle’. OODA is an acronym for Observe-Orient-Decide-Act. Boyd’s belief was that decision making occurs through the execution of a series of iterations through this loop, where the decision-maker repeatedly evaluates his situation, makes decisions, acts and re-evaluates and continues until the outcome is reached. His focus was on military matters and more specifically on fighter pilots; he was documenting the optimal process that a pilot should follow in determining his circumstances, gathering and evaluating information, determining the proper course of action and taking it. Success was determined by the validity of the information, accurate evaluation and rapid decision making and execution. It’s sometimes simplified into a diagram that looks like this: OODA Loop Unfortunately this diagram is a gross over-simplification. (It also looks an awful lot like Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle.) When Boyd finally got around to drawing the diagram, it looked like this:

Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:OODA.Boyd.svg

Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:OODA.Boyd.svg

The first time I saw this model I wondered if it could be applied to projects or to change management, particularly transformational change. Is there a business application? One thing that is apparent is that the OODA loop is misnamed; it’s not a loop, it’s a network of loops that connect each of the stages in various ways. Another thing that may not be so apparent is that the model is much more reactive than proactive. The goal of the OODA loop is more tactical than strategic. It’s not used to define and attain specific objectives – used it’s to increase the quality of decisions and the speed with which they are made. And it’s worth noting that while it has a military heritage the terminology leans more to the scientific method (which is appropriate, because Boyd used such varied sources as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem in the development of his theory).

Observe

The observe stage is fairly straightforward – it’s gathering information about the current situation. It looks at the environment, external information, internal information – I would call it a ‘current state model’. From the military perspective it’s concerned about what both you and your enemy are doing. From a business perspective it’s more about your organization’s vision, strategies and capabilities, the marketplace and what your competitors are doing. Think about the contents of a SWOT matrix – that’s the type of information that needs to be collected. One of the challenges of the observation phase is making sure that your observations are complete and ensuring that you are focusing on the correct information.

Orient

At one level the orientation phase is equivalent to the traditional analysis phase of a project or change initiative; it can be viewed as a situational analysis. However in Boyd’s model it goes deeper than that; it becomes a complex assessment or interpretation of the observations previously made, viewed through several different lenses. He realized that our analysis is distorted by our previous experiences, our heritage, traditions and value systems. They act as screens that filter out some of the information. Care must be taken to ensure that information isn’t filtered out for the wrong reason. The OODA model requires objectivity; it’s required to cope with our inherent biases and predispositions. This ensures that all information is considered, even that which doesn’t necessarily fit in our world-view. Ultimately, the goal of this phase is to analyze all the information and synthesize it into one or more actionable plans. Here’s a personal example.   My first car was a used 1971 Datsun 240Z. When it ran it was a great little car. Unfortunately it spent far too much time not running; it was spectacularly unreliable, in need of constant repair and was a colossal (and expensive) headache. I was not that sorry to see it go. Fast forward thirty-three years. I’m shopping for a new car. Do I go into a Nissan dealership? No, I don’t. Even after all that time the memory of the 240Z causes me to deselect Nissan. It’s neither reasonable nor rationale, but there it is. The amount of time spent in the orientation phase is another critical consideration. Too little time and the analysis and synthesis efforts are not adequately informed, leading to unreliable scenarios. Too long a time (‘analysis paralysis’) and the observations lose their validity; too much has changed between when the observations were made and when they were acted upon, resulting in scenarios that address the wrong things.

Decide

The decision phase is just that; choosing the best scenario from those that were developed. The criteria could be anything and may include a combination of risk/reward, ROI, time to market or any other of a host of variables. It’s considering how your enemy (or competitor, marketplace or maybe even your own organization) will react to the change and then picking the scenario with the best fit. What I find interesting is that Boyd has used the word ‘hypothesis’ in conjunction with the word ‘decide’. To me this implies, in a manner similar to the scientific method, that the decision needs to be tested. It predicts an outcome but the results need to be examined in the next phase before the decision can be considered correct. And this in itself is interesting, because it’s been my experience that individuals and organizations don’t normally test their decisions; they just assume that the decisions are correct and continue as if they are, sometimes even after it’s apparent that they aren’t!

Act

The act phase executes the decision. It’s testing the hypothesis and evaluating the result. It is only after action has been taken that the correctness of the decision can be properly evaluated. This evaluation as well as all the other information gathered during the execution of the cycle are captured for use in the next iteration; this closes the loop and either completes the cycle or beings the next execution. There’s one other aspect of the model that’s worth examining – ‘Explicit Command and Control’. In the military these could be considered the chain of command and rules of engagement; in business they are organization charts, regulations, policies, procedures and operating principles. Sometimes command and control has the effect of short-circuiting the decision cycle by limiting the solution space and reducing the number of possible scenarios. If can also cause problems by micromanaging and overcontrolling, or by abdicating its responsibility and not managing. Command and control also monitors execution of the decision cycles to make sure that things are progressing smoothly. It’s important to note that there is not just one decision cycle occurring at any one time; there are any number of decisions cycles occurring simultaneously. I visualize them almost like a stack of pancakes.   Everyone is involved in a cycle – from the general down to the private (or the CEO to the mail room clerk). Part of command and control is ensuring that these concurrent cycles are aligned and are executing in harmony.

Speed – The Key Factor

The key to success is speed. The OODA loop must be executed rapidly. In the military application of the OODA loop, the key to victory is getting inside your adversary’s decision cycle; making him react to what you are doing until he is unable to continue, at which point he is defeated or quits the field. Victory favors the side that can recognize changes in a dynamic environment (Observe), analyze and synthesize appropriate responses (Orient), choice a response (Decide) and execute it (Act) and do so rapidly and decisively. It’s no different in business. Organizations that can adapt to dynamic situations and that can execute their plans rapidly have much greater likelihood of success.

Projects and the OODA Loop

What do we need to consider if we want to implement a decision making model like the OODA Loop in our own projects or change initiatives? When we observe, we need to observe as completely as possible. Capturing just a subset of the available information provides a false sense of confidence and will likely result in problems as the process moves forward. It’s a lot like the parable of the blind men and the elephant; you may understand part of the situation but you will never perceive the complete whole. When we orient, we must continue the holistic approach and take a comprehensive look at all the information that is available, including our own perceptions and biases, and build one or more plans of action. In doing so we triage the information, deciding what is essential (and should be retained) and what is irrelevant (and can be discarded). Make sure that outlier information is not discarded just because it is an outlier; make the decision to discard information a conscious one and not just a convenient one. Decision balances the risk and reward of the plan(s) of action and selects the best option. The longer the decision takes the higher the risk; what we have observed may no longer be true, the conclusions of our analysis may be based on incorrect information, the plans developed may not be addressing the correct issues. And in order to manage risk the decision should almost always be tested in a controlled environment before being implemented in a more widespread manner. Then we act – quickly and decisively. Allow me to go off on a tangent for a moment.   In his book Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions, Gary Klein describes a study that was performed on the decision making by firefighters; specifically the process that captains used to decide how best to fight any given fire. The assumption was that the captain would develop multiple approaches and choose the best one. But that’s not what happens. After arriving at the scene the captain quickly assesses both the fire and the resources he has on hand; based on his assessment he immediately constructs a single plan that he believes to be best. He then takes this approach and tests it mentally. If it passes he immediately implements it; if it fails he tries to adjust the approach to compensate for the failure, and if he cannot he constructs a new approach, continuing the iterations until he arrives at an acceptable approach. Klein also documents at least one situation where a volunteer firefighter brigade spent 3 days trying to extinguish a refinery fire before calling in professionals.   The professionals put out the fire the next day. Based on this, I think it’s valid to assume that expertise is a requirement for effective decision making. Working with an individual who has experienced similar situations is a tremendous asset to the decision making process. They have learned what is material and what isn’t and can add their knowledge to the information gathered and the analysis and synthesis performed. Their expertise allows them to recognize conditions and qualities that may otherwise go unnoticed. This knowledge doesn’t even have to reside in an individual; any formal ‘body of knowledge’ can fulfill the same role. Finally, speed. The decision process needs to be executed with a sense of urgency. There are constraints to how fast the process can be proceed, but to be successful those constraints can’t be administrivia, bureaucracy or individuals who, for whatever reason, are unable to make a decision. Decision making is serious business. In a military setting good decision making can be a matter of life and death. In business it could mean the success or failure of your career, your project or, in some extreme situations, your business. Good decisions are more likely to happen if a decision-making process is followed; any framework is better than none. I think John Boyd’s OODA loop is worthy candidate for your consideration. John Boyd died in 1997 at the age of 70. He was buried with full military honours at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Interested in learning more about John Boyd? Can I suggest: The John Boyd Compendium – http://dnipogo.org/john-r-boyd/ The Mind of War: John Boyd and American Security by Grant Tedrick Hammond Boyd: the fighter pilot who changed the art of war by Robert Coram photo credit: mrBunin via photopin cc

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