“The worst business decision you can make is no decision. The needs are not going to go away. Waiting is what’s gotten us in the situation we’re in now.”
After we leave a meeting, we frequently don’t understand what was decided and/or by whom. And sometimes, we’re not present in that meeting and someone tells us what was decided, what we need to do, and we still don’t understand the why and when.
So… often, the actual implementation of the decision taken doesn’t flow or materialize and we spend unnecessary time trying to figure out what is wrong and how to resolve it.
Organizations are networks of commitments, and when things don’t flow, the whole system suffers, including the customers.
How can we get out of this way of operating that only brings us more work, inter-personal conflicts, and frustration?
Who should we involve? How can we know people are committed? How can we improve the quality of the conversations and optimize the decision-making process?
In this chart you can see all the important factors to consider in the decision-making process:
But now, let me get to the point with a powerful question and a checklist that I give to all the teams I work with. As I ask them, I ask you to incorporate and practice this in every important meeting or decision-making coming up.
This solves at least 90% of the problems… if you put it into practice!
Powerful question to ask yourself:
What do I need to do to feel comfortable being explicit, direct, and upfront about the decision-making process and get everyone’s buy-in?
Make change happen:
- When you are in a meeting and a decision needs to be made, ask before starting (and you will save tons of time afterwards!):
- Who will decide this and by when?
- How will we make this decision? How are we participating? (check the graph above on decision making and choose just one way to do it!)
- Do we need to call in anyone who is critical to make this decision?
- And before you leave the meeting
- Can someone summarize their understanding?
- Who needs to do what and by when?
Adjust your schedule to this, no matter what, for one week, and let´s see what happens!
You can download and print here the checklist to take to your meetings.
“Decision making is an art only until the person understands the science.”
― Pearl Zhu, Decision Master: The Art and Science of Decision Making
The average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions daily (Sahakian & LaBuzetta, 2013). Have you ever stopped to think how to be more effective at making conscious decisions? What is the best time and moment to make important decisions?
Let’s look at this through an excerpt from a scientific study published in 2011, on how the time at which we act influences our decision-making ability:
“Three men doing time in Israeli prisons recently appeared before a parole board consisting of a judge, a criminologist and a social worker. The three prisoners had completed at least two-thirds of their sentences, but the parole board granted freedom to only one of them. Guess which one:
Case 1 (heard at 8:50 a.m.): An Arab Israeli serving a 30-month sentence for fraud.
Case 2 (heard at 3:10 p.m.): A Jewish Israeli serving a 16-month sentence for assault.
Case 3 (heard at 4:25 p.m.): An Arab Israeli serving a 30-month sentence for fraud.
There was a pattern to the parole board’s decisions, but it wasn’t related to the men’s ethnic backgrounds, crimes or sentences. It was all about timing, as researchers discovered by analyzing more than 1,100 decisions over the course of a year. Judges, who would hear the prisoners’ appeals and then get advice from the other members of the board, approved parole in about a third of the cases, but the probability of being paroled fluctuated wildly throughout the day. Prisoners who appeared early in the morning received parole about 70 percent of the time, while those who appeared late in the day were paroled less than 10 percent of the time.
The odds favored the prisoner who appeared at 8:50 a.m. — and he did in fact receive parole. But even though the other Arab Israeli prisoner was serving the same sentence for the same crime — fraud — the odds were against him when he appeared (on a different day) at 4:25 in the afternoon. He was denied parole, as was the Jewish Israeli prisoner at 3:10 p.m, whose sentence was shorter than that of the man who was released. They were just asking for parole at the wrong time of day.”
Our decisions are influenced by external circumstances and the effect these have on us personally. The time of the day is a big one! How rested or tired, how hungry, stressed and/or rushed we are at that time, among other things, are crucial conditions to keep in mind when looking into making more effective decisions.
Find below my main takeaways from reading such thorough article with so many cases, studies and science behind:
- The mental work developed over the course of a day wears down people’s decision-making capacity.
- As our energy is depleted, the brain will look for shortcuts. One shortcut is to make more impulsive decisions, and the other is to postpone decisions.
- These experiments demonstrated that there is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control. That’s why it’s harder to resist temptations at the end of the day.
- Part of the resistance against making decisions comes from our fear of giving up options. The word “decide” shares an etymological root with “homicide,” the Latin word “caedere,” meaning “to cut down” or “to kill,” and that loss looms especially large when decision fatigue sets in.
- Once you’re mentally depleted, you become reluctant to make trade-offs, which involve a particularly advanced and taxing form of decision-making.
- Glucose level influences decision-making. Do not make decisions on an empty stomach.
Sources: Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? and “Extraneous factors in judicial decisions” by Shai Danziger, Jonathan Levav, and Liora Avnaim-Pesso
Powerful question to ask yourself:
What is the time of the day where I feel I can focus better, listen to others, analyze things, and connect with my emotions?
Make change happen:
When planning your day, make sure the important personal/business decisions are made when you (and ideally everyone else involved!) will be at your their best!
- Check your schedule for the next 2 weeks.
- Plan decision-making meetings at the best time to tackle the most important team decisions.
- If you can’t re-schedule, use the meeting to discuss ideas, without making a final decision if possible. Leave that for a quick meeting the next day at the right time!
Adjust your schedule to this, no matter what, for the next 2 weeks, and let’s see what happens!
In the upcoming newsletters we will explore other related topics influencing decision-making such as: “Who should be involved and how to get commitment to action?” and “How to improve the quality of a conversation and optimize the time spent to make good decisions?”
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities” Stephen Covey
We all want to feel part of it. To feel like we don’t miss any of the important things in life. The problem is that we cannot control the number of new stimuli we receive.
During the pandemic, the number of online requests to socialize, do sports trainings, attend mental health courses, work meetings, has grown exponentially. With this came great physical and mental health problems like the famous FOMO. The amount of stimulus has radically increased, as has the weariness accompanying it. All this comes from our own fear of missing something. To feel that maybe in our absence something spectacular happens, and we missed it.
How can we get out of this vicious circle that just gets faster overtime?
This will not be solved if we continue to increase our participation entering a spiral from which getting out grows increasingly difficult. Instead we should, on one hand, be more selective and choose those things more aligned with our intentions (and note I said “more”, because if not, we fall into the trap of saying that they are all equal). And on the other hand, working on our own ability to find peace in not being part of everything, to understand that life itself is a finite space, limited by a time and a space that we can expand but never break.
It is working on both things, prioritizing according to our interests and accepting our own limits, that will give us the inner strength to live in peace with what we have and what we can do, rather than a constant fear for all that we miss in life.
Powerful question to ask yourself:
What would be the worst thing that could happen if I missed “X” meeting?
Make change happen:
- From your upcoming week’s schedule choose 1 or 2 activities per day (at least 1 hr long) that are least aligned to your needs.
- Do not attend them (let whoever needs to know in advance)
- Use those hours you earned to do something for yourself that you find more aligned and relevant than the other activities
Adjust your schedule to reflect this, no matter what, for one week, and let’s see what happens!
Click the link below if you want to read more about FoMO: How to Deal With FOMO in Your Life
“Change is the end result of all true learning.” – Leo Buscaglia
Every day we learn to adapt to new circumstances. We had to abruptly adapt to the new norm with the pandemic, which made it more noticeable. But if you stop and think, you’ve been doing it your whole life. However, the changes that we crave the most, those things for which we’ve been getting feedback for a while, may not be so simple for us to achieve. I would like to share with you an excerpt from my book, which you will soon be able to read, to illustrate my thoughts on how we can make those changes that we desire so much.
“Today, virtually everyone speaks in any area of change, evolution and transformation. It’s just that there’s a lot of confusion as to what change is and what it entails. Repeating it aloud as a mantra does not help us understand it better, but rather feel more frustrated. It’s like we should know it, do it, understand it and not necessarily be able to.
Why is it so hard for us to change the things we want to change? Because we tend to assume that a simple idea is enough to modify our behaviors or those of the people around us. Almost immediately after hearing something we like or that challenges us, our mind convinces us that we can do so without considering the magnitude of the effort required. The idea of effortlessly changing those things that we crave the most, and are counterintuitive in many cases to the way we do things, is a common trap, which activates especially when we’re immerse in ourselves. Incredibly enough – or not so much – only when we project it on others, we become aware that it is not possible, that there is no sustainable transformation without conscience and dedication.
Understanding is not the same as knowing how to do it
If we knew how to do it, we wouldn’t have to learn it, and we probably wouldn’t even have to think about it. We’d be doing it by now!
In so many years of working with leaders and teams, I found countless examples of people and systems (teams, organizations, etc.) who claim to know something, even something they are passionate about, and that is key to their future, but they are unable to get it up and running. I encountered people who managed to achieve major changes, just to forget them at the first hurdle and take refuge, almost automatically, in their old habits and behaviors, which they themselves consider unproductive. And I’ve also seen many cases, where they managed to begin a path of profound transformation with lasting impact.
We’ve all been through these situations and we’ve been/are still “those people” in many cases. I have no doubt that those who are reading these words will be able to quickly identify many concrete examples of the difference between understanding conceptually versus making it happen and transforming, both in themselves and in others. The question is what will we do about it now, tomorrow, or when we re-realize that we are not just talking about people around us, but about ourselves as well.”
Powerful question to ask yourself:
What ingrained belief about myself prevents me from achieving a change I want?
Make change happen:
- Choose one thing, just one thing, that you’ve really been wanting to change and that would have a high impact on your life (work, team, family)
- Ask 3 people you trust why do they think this is hard for you.
- Engage them to help you let go of your old-way and practice the new-way in a specific real-life situation
- Make an appointment with yourself! Schedule 30 minutes weekly (add to your calendar now!) to reflect on what you learned so far and what you can do better in the next conversations
- Try this for 4 weeks, and let’s see what happens!
You want to create change, your team wants to evolve, everyone talks about it. Flexibility, agility, growth, innovation, customer centricity… the concept in your mind is clear. You design a plan and you try it, but things don’t go as you would like! What happened? Why has cultural change failed once again?
Desire and purpose are the first step, but without action, there is no transformation. A Mindset shift is critical to be successful in this transformation. Many leaders already know this. However, expectations are high and despite the enthusiasm, materialising change isn’t a short-term, easy project. When we talk about transformation, pace, depth and consistency are critical. We have to learn to deal with anxiety and overcome the most common pitfalls. Cultural change falls short most of the times in people’s words, and in this post, I am going to share the reasons why and three pillars to work on in order to make it better next time.
“Without action, there is no transformation”.Fran Cherny
Why do cultural changes fail?
After more than fifteen years’ experience consulting, facilitating and intervening in cultural transformation processes, I’ve identified three common pitfalls that trap most managers during the process of change.
My aim in this article is to share and discuss how these pitfalls emerge and suggest three concrete solutions that could help to avoid them.
1| Pitfalls of cultural change: Trending topics to “trending habits”
The first pitfall is following trending topics instead of creating “trending habits”.
Cultural change is a current trend, and I really love this! But trends can also become a problem. For example, whenever I teach the victim-player mindsets that many large organisations are trying to implement, everyone recognises the need to become more of a player; to focus more on solutions and on what we can control rather than on limiting factors. When I explain how to operate in a growth mindset and focus on our never-ending capacity to do better, management teams are usually instantly willing to embrace it. The benefits are evident to all. However, if we only become enamoured with the concept, we can easily fall into the trap of missing the factor that is key to making these new mindsets work in practice.
When mindsets are taught without creating a context in which they can blossom, as well as an activity system that translates them into habits, they will easily dilute. Instead of loving the process, you will only love the concept but still believe that you might be adopting the mindset already just by talking about it. Our brain may create a complacent story which then makes it harder to deconstruct the false mentality.
I can teach any new mindset and the behaviours that express it perfectly in a two-hour slot (even in a 10-minute slot!), from a conceptual perspective, and with some time for practice. However, the learning process is far from complete if we don’t properly understand how to incorporate these concepts into our daily routines, and therefore don’t properly practise it either.
How do we become the person who “naturally” (meaning more automatically) brings this mindset alive? To make this happen, it is key to focus on the one thing that happens in organisations all the time: conversations through a variety of different channels. What do we do every day? We think, discuss, negotiate, commit, and deliver something. We are in meetings, writing emails, or exchanging instant messages all day, and when we’re not talking to someone, we’re talking to ourselves (as you are doing right now, while reading these words). The quality of these thoughts and conversations and the way in which they happen are an asset or a liability to how corporate culture is built and shaped.
Cultural change programmes have more chance of success when we include concrete habits that introduce the new mindsets into conversations and meetings as key devices. Without them, cultural change will fail. An example of this in most organisations is how changing the way we set the agenda of a meeting can be a simple, but powerful, tool to improve coordination and make commitments and accountability much clearer and more transparent. Also, discussing together at the end of a meeting what we could have done better during the meeting can be, for example, an effective way of applying the learner mindset. Therefore, this avoids the unhealthy habit of judging the quality of the meeting afterwards in the hallway, a common vice that boycotts the group’s learning process and feeds the ‘Inner Knower’ in ourselves.
In short, in order to make change happen, we need to turn a mindset into a habit, and a habit into a mindset. Creating this virtuous cycle is key to helping new mindsets take root and making cultural transformation a powerful lubricant for business growth and innovation.
“We need to turn a mindset into a habit, and a habit into a mindset”.Fran Cherny
2| Pitfalls of cultural change: being one step ahead in order to lead change
The second pitfall is not the design of change programmes, but the behaviour of those who lead them.
The problem is as follows: A manager of an organisation implements a programme to equip a team with a new mindset, to create a change and improve things. The programme is led by people with good intentions, but who still might be operating with the old mindset.
Let me give you another example: A leader wants to create a pilot test to train a management group to be more innovative and agile. The process will encounter a number of setbacks, which is to be expected with most new programmes. While this is not a problem per se, what I have observed many times is that the leader quickly focuses on who created the setback, who is to blame, and even considers cancelling the programme if people don’t fully ‘like it’ or get on board. This is exactly the opposite of what being innovative and agile means.
By adopting these defensive attitudes, managers and leaders miss a great opportunity to start changing the culture “on the job” by assuming responsibility and taking corrective action while running the pilot test. Or even better, by acknowledging that they might not know how to solve some of the issues and therefore share the problem with the group to search for solutions in a process of collective learning and cooperation. The way we run a pilot test is also by talking about the culture we have versus the one we want.
In short, leading change from the perspective of the old mindset and behaviours can never really work. In any change programme, the process itself must be the ‘spearhead’ to break into the new mindset. In order to lead a cultural change, we, as the leaders of the process, need to be a few steps ahead in embodying the new values and sending the right signals and symbols that will inspire everyone else to follow. Cultural changes can fail but with a new mindset, you can avoid this.
“Leading change from the perspective of the old mindset and behaviours can never really work”.Fran Cherny
Pitfalls of cultural change: fast and furious!
The third pitfall is based on an interesting paradox: In order to move fast, we need to start slow.
“Dress me slowly, I´m in a hurry”.Napoleon
Some of the phrases I hear the most from leaders in organisations that want to embark on cultural change programmes start something like: “We need to change corporate culture; it is critical for the business”, “It is one of our top 3 priorities”, or “Changing culture is key to our future success”. Right after saying this, they complement it with one or all of the following: “We have a very limited budget and have just one shot to make it happen”, “We need this urgently, it needs to be done in the next 6 months!” and “teach us how to do it ourselves in the next few months”.
I suspect that many people reading this might not only have heard something like this before, but might also have said something similar themselves. Don’t you?
So, how does this urgency translate into the implementation of a process of change? I will illustrate the problem with an example. Recently, I was hired to implement a pilot test to help a team adopt a more innovative and agile way of working, using the learner mindset which was critical to becoming more customer-centric. Yet, at the end of the process, which they thought was going to be enough to change some very deep, engrained behaviours, the leadership team wanted to assess the success of the programme by measuring specific business outcomes, even when we were just running a pilot test to learn. They were exclusively focused on whether a certain result on sales was actually achieved rather than on the experience of adopting a learner mindset, which involves the team trying new things and approaching problems in a different way. They said they wanted to create skills that will enable this new way of working to flourish and multiply, but they were actually looking for a new magic formula.
Both learner and growth mindsets are about creating experiences that motivate teams to continue learning in an ever-evolving process. Yet, leaders seem to be more interested in cutting the programme short and grasping a tangible fixed result as soon as they can. This not only goes against the essence of the mindsets they are trying to teach, but also erodes the capacity to create the change they wanted so much in the first place.
The result of such behaviours is usually a series of never-ending pilot tests, continuous change of consulting firms in search of a ‘magic formula’, and many other attempts that fail to produce real change in corporate culture. Managers find themselves running in circles and ultimately the organisation spends much more money, time, and energy than what is actually required to make a change programme successful.
“Cultural changes fail if you don’t go for deep transformation at the right pace”.Fran Cherny
How to avoid cultural change pitfalls
It is time for applying the player, learner, and growth mindsets to this article.
As I shared at the beginning, the first step to begin the journey of cultural change is the shift in our way of looking at things, a change in our own mindsets. But even so, cultural changes fail for the reasons listed above. Now is the time to know how to avoid these pitfalls.
I ask you, reading this, not to challenge my words by finding what is not fully true for you (I know your mind might be trying to pull you in that direction!), but to try to find situations in which these pitfalls might have happened to you, your team, or your organization, and how you can think of a different way to respond to the challenge. Is there any new thought or idea worth trying? Let me give you some advice: stop thinking of others, and just start with yourself!
Now that we have identified some of the most common issues most companies encounter, the question that arises is: Is there a way to get away from these pitfalls? My answer is yes, and I summarise my three key and simple recommendations below.
Acknowledge your biases and limitations
This is perhaps the most important and fundamental of all recommendations. As I already explained above, one of the main pitfalls that prevents real change from happening is that programmes that train teams to adopt new mindsets are led by people who still operate through an old mindset. To avoid this problem, it is essential for leaders to recognise that in many cases, they might not be fully ready to lead the process of change.
Look for support!
Whenever you are getting into territory you haven’t navigated before, it is always a good idea to have someone around to guide, support, or advise you (or all 3 together). Someone who has no other agenda than making things happen with you. Yes, your ego might get in the way, but don’t let it win, as you will be missing an opportunity to learn, evolve and do the best for the organisation you are trying to add value to.
Train a pioneering team
Before starting the implementation of a company-wide programme, it is very important to first train a small team within the company that fully adopts the new mindsets and that is respected by others. Once this team is attuned, the programme can then be extended to others, maintaining a commitment to follow the pioneers. In short, before sharing and deploying a big and ambitious change programme, make sure that at least a small group is one step ahead to lead the way.
Cultural changes fail for many different reasons: not practising enough, leadership behaviours, and a sense of urgency that creates anxiety. When we do it this way, it becomes a very complex project, but we can avoid the pitfalls of cultural change by applying the player, learner, and growth mindsets and the three practical recommendations that I have shared with you. When we do this, what was complex and heavy, becomes a never-ending journey with a deep sense of purpose, that will create learning, enthusiasm and change faster than you expect.
In my next article, I will elaborate further on these three recommendations, and especially on the latter point, which I consider the most fundamental step to becoming truly successful change leaders.