How to speed up corporate decision making

Big Corporations are notorious for many things. Quick decision making is not one of them. See, corporations are actually the origin point of an infectious disease called “Decision by committee”, and boy, is it lethal. Decision by committee, (or “DBC”, as the Center For Infectious Corporate Disease calls it) is awful in so many ways.

1. It waters down the original vision into a broad, usually meaningless and ugly version of itself.

2. It removes any sort of accountability: “Oh, Jane suggested that. I was against it, but majority rules. Hey, wanna get lunch?”

3. It’s SLOW.

Killing corporate DBC would be an incredible step forward for humanity. However, that’s a long term goal. Here are 6 hacks that can help speed corporations up today.

Refine communications - There are many ways people communicate in corporations; Large meetings, instant messaging, one on one meetings, email, random hallway meetings, and conference calls are just some of the ways people at large corporations communicate. These things all take up time, so the goal is to always use the shortest communication method, while still never having to repeat communications. What does that mean? Don’t have a large meeting when a small one will do. Don’t send an email when an instant message will be fine. And don’t have a face to face meeting if it will need to be turned into an email anyways.

Empower people - Decisions that have to be “run by” other people face a sizable problem. The person who is supposed to be making the decision now needs to turn the idea in his head into a fully fleshed out presentation with a slide deck, laser pointer, and hopefully croissants. This takes time and inevitably leads to discussions, changes, and further meetings. If you hired someone to make decisions, let them make decisions.

Make decisions in the room - “We’ll figure that out by next meeting” is a great way to waste more time on the subject. 80% of the time “it” will not be figured out, and in the rare occasion when it is, people will have to be reminded what they are looking at, and then spend the next hour talking about it and suggesting “fixes”. This will introduce new versions that will lead to more meetings. Whenever someone wants to push off a decision, ask them why it cannot be done sooner. In fact, ask them why it can’t be done now. If a decision must be made later...

Set Deadlines - The power of deadlines is not understudied. It’s a known phenomenon that having a looming deadline will make most humans work towards that goal with more urgency than without one. If a decision must be made for a later time, set an early deadline. That way there is plenty of time for discussion and rock kicking later on.

Weed early, weed often - When facing decisions that have many options, it’s always best to quickly weed out the unlikely candidates. This is as easy as going down the list and comparing each one against the next one. Discard the bad one. If you really can’t decide on a couple of them, move on, randomize the order of the list, and do it again. This list should include only the best candidates, and any inferior ideas should not be added. A list of 50 ideas is unmanageable. A list of 10 great ideas is worthwhile.

Remove dependencies - There’s nothing worse than hearing “Oh, I’ll get to that right after Ricky is done with X”. What if Ricky takes another week? We’re going to delay an entire project because he can’t figure out his work? Remove dependencies whenever possible, and if it’s impossible, work around them. Design needs content to move forward? Content team, you have 35 minutes to send in a scratch draft. Engineering is waiting on design? Start on the backend.

No one goes from moving quick to completely stagnating. Somewhere in the middle they started moving slow. That must mean that moving slow is the first step towards stagnation, which we all know is the first step towards obsolescence.

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Written by
Ben Ferster 20 Dec 2016

Ben is a marketer, music producer, filmmaker, and visual artist who's interested in consumer behavior and the economics of everything.


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