Sound Byte Decisions

When I was working for a CEO (and a tremendous mentor of mine) of a major company some years ago, I often would be called on to research a particular technology and advise him on the subject matter. The CEO loved cars and would often drive to our various markets hours away. He would stop by my office and say, "Let's go for a drive and chat". During those car rides, I would brief him on the subject. He would explore the pros and cons and we would discuss the various impacts. The CEO was not by any definition a micro-manager. Rather, he was a quick study and truly wanted to understand all aspects of a strategic decision before committing on a path.

Unfortunately, since that time, I have advised many executives that did not have those qualities. More often than not, the executives would seek out what I call "Sound Byte" decisions. They would look for the QUICK answer. They did not want detail, just the "Sound Byte". I am not advocating Micro-Management. I am suggesting that executives need to understand ALL of the aspects that surround a strategic decision.

If you find yourself in similar circumstances, here are 2 methods that I use to help understand and communicate the implications surrounding the decision.

THE CHESS GAME. I will look at a pending decision and ask the question, "How will our competition respond to this?" Once that reaction has been potentially determined, then ask yourself, "How will we respond to their reaction?" The next logical step then is to ask, "How will our competition then respond?" A good chess player will think out a minimum of 5 moves ahead of the current decision. This process will help you in determining the impact that the decision will have. After you have completed the exercise using Competition, swap Competition with Customer and do it again, " How will our customer respond to this?" Often looking at the customer perspective will change your entire approach to the subject. A great peer and board member that I knew would constantly ask a singular question whenever in a discussion, "How does our customer feel about this?"  "What has he said? " I have found that more often than not, board members will ask more detailed questions and dive into the subject matter more than executives have.

THE MICRO SWOT. Most are aware of a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). The MICRO SWOT looks at the potential decision in a microcosm. What are the strengths of this decision? What are the Weaknesses of this decision? What Opportunities will this decision provide? What Threats will this decision Promote?

These two methods are critical at vetting a strategic decision. At the end of the day, you may not make the decision, but your diligence in vetting the decision for "Sound Byte" decision makers will be your saving grace.

About Sprawlgeek.
A Seasoned Technology Visionary possessing a deep understanding of technology and business processes.

Doug has accumulated over 35 years of experience in the technology and media markets. His broad career has ranged from leading Research and Development work for a 300+ million dollar company to an E-Government startup. His efforts have been recognized by major trade associations as well as Tier 1 clients.

Doug is now a private consultant and continues to provide his insights to the industry.