As a leader in an organization, a concept you need to become familiar with is that of, “High quality, high velocity decisions.” Many, many decisions pass in front of me every day. As I read my emails, watch my text messages, and attend my meetings, there are either specific decisions asked of me, or opportunities for me to lean in and make a decision.
The thing about it is, making lots of quick, high quality decisions isn’t about some Sherlock Holmes-ian Jason Bourne-ism. It’s not having a keen wit and sharp mind. Instead, it is about detailed and intentional preparation. My son was an offensive lineman in football, and he practiced over and over what to do when the defender moved this way, or that way. He wasn’t necessarily running through a complex decision making process…it had been trained into him.
Well, it’s a similar approach here. When a decision point passes in front of me, it is very likely I’ve already thought about this situation, or something similar, so the decision analysis is already far along.
There are several things I do for this.
First of all, I do a lot of reading. Definitely a lot of business literature, books and magazine articles and blog posts, but also internal reading. I read as many internal business plans, status reports, vision documents, etc., as I can, including even things like marketing slide decks and pitch decks.
I also review raw data a lot. As crazy as this sounds, I pull the data from Jira sprint boards and burndown charts, source code commit histories, timecards, and financial statements. I frequently create one-time line graphs and pie charts (that no one ever looks at but me) so I can understand the data.
Think (and Write)
After doing all the reading and data gathering, I spend a lot of time thinking about it. Sometimes this just means doing what I call “stare at the wall mode“, where I’m just thinking through things. I frequently do what-if planning in my head, or roleplay different scenarios to see what specific actions or directions might take, and what the results and impact might be.
I also do a lot of writing at this stage. If I think I have an idea, I will try to write a business plan or pitch deck on the idea. Even if that plan never comes to fruition or sees the light of day, the act of writing it down helps me fully understand the idea and ensure it is well thought-out and well-defined.
I also do brainstorming or workshopping sessions with trusted confidantes. These are a little bit difficult, because normally when I schedule meetings I try to be very respectful of everyone’s time and thus the meeting has an agenda and a well-defined actionable outcome. But a brainstorming meeting may not have either of those, so I make sure to state up front when scheduling the meeting, and also when the meeting starts, that there is no agenda and not necessarily any actionable outcome. The intent instead is to lay out a problem space in front of everyone and then take turns providing insights and ideas. Frequently this does turn into action items: go write a business plan draft, go research some data. But the goal is really just to make sure you have examined your problems from every angle, and thought through some potential ideas and directions.
By doing the above actions, you can prepare yourself for when decisions cross in front of you, you already have your strategic direction in place and you can make sure your decision is aligned and can nudge the effort in the correct direction.