The NAPA Way – decision-making
by Juhana Salminen, Quality and Process Coach at NAPA
The right and responsibility to make decisions is for everybody
In my previous blog regarding the NAPA Way, I discussed transparency and touched the freedom to make decisions. Our guiding rule for making decisions is, “Any person can make any decisions after seeking advice.” Advice needs to be sought from people with expertise in the matter, and from those who will be meaningfully affected. Naturally, transparency of the decisions is essential, and all the significant decisions are documented.
Decision logs for discussing alternatives
How does this work in practice? First, you open a Decision log in NAPA Intranet. All decisions are documented in Intranet decision logs using a decision template. All the decisions are also automatically collected to the company-wide decision log. Decision logs can be followed so that you will automatically get an email regarding new decisions. You will also get an automatic email whenever you are added as a stakeholder in a decision. Decision-makers are advertising ongoing and made decisions in relevant meetings and chat boards to keep colleagues transparently informed and to ensure making as good decisions as possible. Seeking advice is the most important part of the decision-making because very seldom one person has all the information to make a well-justified decision. Advice can and will be sought using any possible methods from meetings and workshops to chat board discussions and comments on the decision page.
Fail fast and learn from mistakes
How to justify the decision? We started to use, from the beginning, quite a common framework called the 3Cx2 rule. The three Cs are Customers, Colleagues, and Company. Times two means now and in the future. So, the decision-maker, together with the decision stakeholders, collect and document the value of the decision for customers, colleagues, and company, now and in the future. The decision-maker uses her/his best judgment, which advice to follow and which not. Consensus concerning the decision is not a necessity. Voting is seldom the way to make decisions because this is not a democracy, but people have different expertise and experience. We fully accept and understand that not all the decisions will be good ones. It is human and totally okay to fail. The critical thing is to fail as fast as possible and then to learn from the mistake. We also have a clear procedure for handling disagreements regarding made decisions. The old decisions can and should be replaced with new, better ones when needed. It is good to challenge your history.
Experimenting & right timing
When to make the decision? The decisions should be made as late as possible to avoid wasting resources making early decisions that need to be changed when more has been learned. Experimenting is the key we are often using to tackle the problem of large and difficult decisions. We can continuously learn from experiments without causing unnecessary waste.
A clear path leading to the decision
I can share here one example regarding experimenting and our decision-making process. A small group of people wanted to improve our decision-making template to show the considered alternatives better because rarely the decisions are just ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The new template was first used by a few, and after some modifications, it started to spread. Nowadays, most of the decisions contain alternatives with pros and cons, as well as risks and their mitigation plans. This was a small improvement that has proven its value. Now it is much easier to understand the path that leads to the decision. Recording different alternatives and their reasoning is valuable information for transparency and continuous learning by retrospectively analyzing past decisions. We have learned that a clear and transparent path that leads to a decision also makes implementing the decision much more efficient. Change management starts already when the decision page is created, and advice collection is started. This is a massive change to the past.
With the rights come responsibilities
Can anybody really make any decisions? In principle, yes, but there is also the ‘but.’ There are few exceptions, such as hiring and salaries, where separate and more detailed processes have been implemented. For example, deciding salaries is challenging when there are no supervisors. We have a process where certain roles have the responsibility to make the decisions. Everybody has the right to propose and justify an increase in anybody’s salary, including their own.
It is a privilege to have full rights to make any decisions. With the right to make decisions also come responsibilities to utilize the advice process and make as good decisions as possible. Many have noticed that decision-making can be quite challenging. I have happily noticed that there are all the time more and more colleagues initiating decisions, not just the usual suspects. An interesting fact to end this blog posting: There are, as per today, 501 documented decisions in the decision logs. Transparency and documentation of the decisions have both hugely improved compared to the past.
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This is the third blog in a series of postings about The NAPA Way – the way how we together manage and continuously improve NAPA as a company, as a workplace and as a member of society.