Small and mid-sized companies must act quickly when an opportunity presents itself. Acting quickly, however, should not put the business at unnecessary risk.
In general, we see five keys to accelerating organizational performance. We’ll define and explain them here, with an example at the end.
2. Prepare early
3. 80% is (mostly) good enough
4. Improve continuously
5. Delegate wisely
Focus is critical at small companies, since they do not have the resources to take a scattershot approach. Leaders and contributors have limited bandwidth. The road to strong financial results is unclear so capital must be conserved. Creating a compelling brand image is simpler when a specific audience is targeted. Decisions are easier when there are fewer of them to make.
Prepare early: Steven Covey created the Four Quadrants Framework, with activities grouped by importance and urgency. Preparing falls in the category of Important but Not Urgent.
Preparing early can be tricky for small growing companies. Leadership frequently has both strategic and operational responsibilities, and therefore limited available time. Urgent operational activities can crowd out activities with a longer-term focus. Paradoxically, the less urgent activities are frequently more important in the long term.
80% is (mostly) good enough: All decisions and activities are not equally important. Some are mission critical – performing them well is critical to business success. Other activities are less important, and an 80% solution may be good enough.
Technical professionals (such as those in clean tech) may struggle with 80% solutions. They tend to seek out all the facts, and hate making mistakes. This can greatly slow down decision making and decrease productivity.
Improve continuously: Small, growing businesses have plenty of opportunities for improvement. Many activities are performed for the first time or infrequently, and there is a learning curve for each. If handled properly, each activity will be performed better and more quickly over time.
Improving continuously requires a willingness to take chances and try new approaches. It means learning from both successes and failures. It means having a framework in place to capture what has been learned. It means having a learning culture that values continuous improvement.
Delegate wisely: Delegation frees up the time of leadership, thereby leading to more focus on strategic decisions and improved decision-making. Internal delegation also provides opportunities for personal growth, thereby accelerating the development of future leaders.
Delegation can also be external -- to suppliers, consultants, or outsourced professionals. External delegation can provide access to resources and skills not available internally. By wisely delegating to trusted external providers, the company expands its capabilities and accelerates its growth.
Example: Let’s see how Accelerating Decision Making is impacted by utilizing the five keys:
Focus decreases the number of decisions to be made.
The 80% rule results in decisions receiving the emphasis appropriate to their importance.
Preparing early means that key decision inputs are available when needed.
Continuous learning incorporates insights from prior decisions.
Delegating frees up leadership time for making quality decisions.
The result – good decisions made quickly without unnecessary risk. (Accelerating Decision Making will be explored in more detail in a future article.)
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