You walk up to an intersection and the light is green. You have the right away. As you walk across the intersection a fast-moving car runs the red light and kills you!
You walk up to an intersection and the light is red. You do not have the right away but you risk it. As you walk across the intersection a fast-moving car drives through the intersection on his green light and kills you!
The result is the same you’re dead. And so it goes with decision-making, following the basic rules is seldom sufficient. In my experience, whether making the decision based on generally accepted principles or taking the risk and breaking the rules, both, can get you in trouble if you don’t see the blind spot. In the scenarios above neither considered the oncoming car, perhaps the most important variable. We made the assumption the car driver was playing by the same (our) rules.
Avoiding the “blind spot” thinking trap means looking at all the variables and applying judgement. For instance, in the above scenario was the driver of the oncoming car acting appropriately? Was the vehicle slowing down? Was there any acknowledgement by the driver showing awareness that someone was crossing the intersection? This is basic commonsense, which often, isn’t so common after all.
Reliability and Awareness
The best definition of reliability is “understanding all the causes of reliability and mitigating them”. In decision-making this means understanding all the factors and considerations and remaining in a state of readiness. Key assumptions or expectations need to be continuously monitored and updated based on results to date.
Real World Thinking –Airline Policy Example
As we have learned from the recent events occurring in the airline industry, operating by standard policy can be disastrous. In these events, the passengers, in some cases, were not playing by the assumed rules and while the airlines though they were in the right they were clearly proven wrong in the court of public opinion. Did the airlines plan for dealing with uncooperative passengers? If they did and I believe they do, did the actions taken in line with their policy? Obviously this policy needs refinement.
Agility and Adaptability Decision Making Guidelines
Following are five guidelines I recommend to ensure your decision-making is “Real World Ready”.
1. Policies are guidelines that show a path / process to the desired results, they are not the unbreakable rules of engagement.
2. Leadership must be aware of potential conflicts of interest of key stakeholders, and have mitigation protocols in place to allow for appropriate discretion to be taken.
3. All decisions (guidelines) have four components: 1)The goal or outcome to be achieved, 2) Defined Strategy / Tactics to be used, 3) Deployment of the Process, 4) and an Active Feedback Loop. A formal process must exist where evaluation of the success of the decision / guideline / policy can be evaluated and lessons learned incorporated. I can guarantee you this was not the first time the airlines were made aware of the issues and concerns of the passengers to the existing policies. And to be fair the airline industry is certainly not alone here.
4. Empowerment of the employees to allow for agility and adaptability to on the ground events. This means allowing the employees to make the final decision where discretion is required.
5. Active communication loops to ensure awareness and process reliability can be assured. Successful organizations have to be ready and flexible to changing environments and factors, Remember what worked yesterday may not work today.
So the next time you make a decision to walk across that traffic intersection, red light or green, remember the yellow light and execute the caution and awareness needed to ensure you can remain agile and adaptable enough to reach the other side