decisions need to be braver, more resolute and involve more risk-taking for organisations to thrive in a digital world…

The wave of digitalisation has created lots of opportunities, but synonymously it has created a few challenges. One of these challenges includes how leaders and organisations approach decision-making; how are we navigating the wealth of data we now have access to? What are we doing with this data? And who should make the decisions?

OE Cam’s latest European research, The Digital Wave*, revealed that as a result of digitalisation, leadership is more decentralised. This means that there is a greater need for collaboration across networks and decisions are being pushed down, or even outside, the organisational hierarchy. Traditional borders between leaders are becoming blurred and decisions increasingly ‘transparent’ as more people have access to the same expanse of data. As a result there is confusion over the degree of autonomy we have. The volume of information combined with the fast-pace of digital means that decision-making is increasingly more complex.

Traditional borders between leaders are becoming blurred and decisions increasingly ‘transparent’ as more people have access to the same expanse of data. As a result there is confusion over the degree of autonomy we have. The volume of information combined with the fast-pace of digital means that decision-making is increasingly more complex.

Taking the time to map out where the responsibilities and accountabilities lie is absolutely critical. As one case study shows, a key factor influencing lost productivity is ‘control and blame.’ Control and blame stems from knowing who makes the decisions, who takes accountability and what they take accountability of. Without establishing this core understanding, individuals are in danger of misunderstanding who is responsible for what and misplacing blame. This can lead to tasks not being completed and rising tensions, causing a loss of productivity.

Decision-making and the Middle Manager

Leaders interviewed for the research actually said that felt that “they didn’t need to revise their decision making process as nothing had changed“. However, they did admit that at times they felt they lacked the experience, skills and tools to make the right decisions for their company’s digital transformation. These interviews provided other insights; for more information on this, read page 18 of “The Digital Wave: Surfing through digital chaos for successful transformation”, OE Cam’s European Research Digitalisation Report, 2017. Download the full report here.

The culture around decision-making and decision-making processes within the digi-wave needs to be able to deal with the fast-paced, forever changing nature of the digital world. This means taking large masses of data, making quick decisions and executing them in a short amount of time. Middle Managers are being given greater responsibility and accountability and this is particularly apparent during the digital journey.

Will the responsibility to make quick decisions lie with middle managers? This may well be the case, however, many organisations acknowledge that their middle managers are less effective at making good decisions than they anticipate them to be. In the past, we may have attempted to overcome these shortcomings with heuristics (cognitive shortcuts) and automatic responses. In terms of recruitment, there is a tendency to recruit candidates in our own image. This similarity-attraction paradigm effect is an example of using cognitive shortcuts to make decisions. However, it is no secret that using shortcuts can lead to faulty judgement and impaired decision-making. Through our research, OE Cam emphasises that middle managers need to be equipped with the requisite capabilities to make quick and effective decisions.

In our experience, these requisites can include making decisions that are aligned with wider goals and vision, developing efficient evaluation techniques and knowing how to delegate effectively. Where this has been an issue for our clients, we have worked with them using a variety of tools and techniques in:

  • Evaluating the management landscape
  • Understanding organisation levels
  • Identifying where the external and internal focus lies
  • Using psychological theories to design effective decision making processes
  • Using decision-making matrixes and mapping.

A Brave New Mindset for Better Decisions

Unprecedented transparency, accessibility and decentralisation foster, on the one hand, a more democratic decision making process (DMP), considering more opinions by involving more people. On the other hand, growing complexity, time pressures and disruption, put leaders under immense pressure to make the right decisions.

Our research suggests that decisions need to be braver, more resolute and involve more risk-taking for organisations to thrive in a digital world. This requires a new leadership mindset. We believe that mindset is best developed through coaching and work with individuals and teams to determine the organisations vision, goals and subsequently reframe cognitive processes – for example, resilience is increasingly a core requirement in a leader’s mindset. We also equip leaders with techniques and behaviours that reflect an adaptive leadership style. After all, the digital wave ebbs and flows so organisations need leaders that can adapt to these changes.

“Be quick, but conscious… Be systemic, but agile… Be resolute, but still flexible…”

For more information, download the full report here and read pages 18 & 19 or email mariam.mirza@oecam.com

* “The Digital Wave: Surfing through digital chaos for successful transformation“.  European research report from OE Cam and SPACE Consulting (2017).  SPACE Consulting Europe is a strategic alliance of leading European management consulting firms.  We help organisations work more effectively to deliver their strategy by improving their behavioural, cultural, structural and economic dimensions.  SPACE operates in nine offices across Europe, with more than 250 consultants, for both public and private organisations.