09 July 2013

Deciding to make (and remember) better decisions

In the ever more complex environments we work in today, the ability to make good decisions quickly is just as important as it was in yesteryear. Arguably the need to do it well may have increased simply because our competitors have more access to information, knowledge and expertise than ever before.

The specialisation of roles means that we can make much more informed decisions, but it also means that decision making mechanisms in companies need to be much more collaborative.  Techniques like Consensus Decision-Making are regularly used, not just to reach an optimal conclusion, but also to get buy-in from the various parties and stakeholders.  Knowledge Management has long sought to assist with methods to overcome cultural and organisational barriers to the knowledge sharing required for these sorts of decisions to work, and Dave Snowden goes so far as to define Knowledge Management's key goal as supporting improved decision making.

Dave Griffiths is always banging on about organisations needing to become more resilient and how KM can play a key role in making that happen.  He identifies decision making and the processes around it as one of the ways organisations can achieve greater resilience.

But there is more to KM's role than just making good decisions.  Sharing the process with others in different places, contexts, times and projects is key to building that resilience.

This post by Nick Milton talks about the interesting idea of Decision Logs.  Some government bodies use and publish these to keep their stakeholder abreast of why key decisions were made, both for transparency as well as assisting in future decisions.

Cloud based tools like Hexigo provide a way for you organisation to record the interactions, ideas, suggestions and refutations that go in to making a decision.  The reason I like Hexigo is because it isn't just an archive.  It's a decision making tool that provides a central space for decision-related activities that beats email hands down in terms of reducing confusion and keeping your people focused on the real issue being discussed.  But the real beauty of Hexigo is that it conforms with my long stated idea that the only successful way to capture knowledge in the long term is to do so in context and within the flow of doing the work itself. Unlike other tools where a log needs to be generated or emails need to be tagged and archived, simply using Hexigo creates a historical log of what the main issues behind the decision were, who the main players were, what aspects were problematic, what decision was eventually made, and perhaps more importantly if design is involved; what decisions were rejected and why.

When I give my 1-minute elevator speech about KM, I start by saying that it helps organisations stop reinventing the wheel. Of course that is important - chiselling a circle out of stone isn't easy work! - but just as important is to stop them rediscovering the wheel. That means they need to know the downsides of triangle wheels, square wheels, wheels made of cheese, etc.

Come to think of it, I can't think of any disadvantages to a cheese wheel so accidentally reinventing one every now and then must be a good thing, surely.