Directionally right

The good thing about making a decision is that you can make a new one if the one you made was the wrong one. Sometimes managers are just too slow, sometimes for the wrong reasons. General Norman Schwarzkopf was the commander of the allied forces in the Gulf War, writes about this.

In his book, It Doesn’t Take a Hero, he shares 14 rules for leadership. Rule 13 says: “When placed in command, take charge.” Making a decision is the only way to move forward.

I guess most of us sometimes feel uncomfortable making a decision (and moving forward). Most organizations have mechanisms for making decisions on investments, new products, clients, recruitments, processes, innovations, and projects, to mention a few areas. In banking, there is typically a New Product (and process) Approval Process (NPAP). This is there for good reasons; we don’t want to make mistakes.

At the same time, there is a movement that promotes agile and flexible decision-making. No one wants to become a dinosaur, soon to be obsolete and extinct due to red tape and bureaucracy.

We have to consider both “NPAP” and “agility”. We must accept that there isn’t a silver bullet. We need to deal with complexity and contradictory goals. We want standardization and tailor-made at the same time. We want high quality but low cost. And we do want large scales and long production series and innovation simultaneously.

Leadership is making people do what they wouldn’t spontaneously do without leaders.

The way to deal with this is through leadership. We need leaders who have the mandate to lead, leaders who are obsessed with what happens with customers and clients and have the mandate to act and to manage between the boxes. We need a culture where we can fail fast, accumulate knowledge and deploy the best ideas. Leadership is making people do what they wouldn’t spontaneously do without leaders. That includes making decisions. Committees, governance, procedures, KPIs and other structures do not substitute for managers. When in command, take charge.

I truly believe that leaders are mandated to lead. As long as we move directionally where we should, I think we need to allow for flexibility. If it turns out that a decision was wrong, we can always change course.

At least we have learned something in the process.


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