Everyone wins when senior global managers triage their decision-making.
Car crashes are, sadly, a fact of life. Thankfully, in most countries, the seriously injured get medical attention quickly. Experts – paramedics, doctors, specialists, and nurses – are there to give immediate treatment.
On arrival at hospital, the patient may live or die; uncertainty is high. But complexity is low; the treatment is organised, structured, and follows a well-established process with clear roles and responsibilities.
Reducing traffic accidents is a different issue. Both complexity and uncertainty are high. The best braking system in the world is worth little if a maniac is behind the wheel. Success depends on the interaction of many people – road and car designers, local government (who maintain the road), driver education, legal systems, and so on. You have to get everyone committed to the plan.
Global managers face the same challenges: clarity on the challenge, on stakeholder commitment and on action.
The ability to triage decisions is vital.
With so much uncertainty at the moment, there are big demands on the time of senior global managers. Everybody wants their attention. The best global managers know this and triage their decisions.
Uncertainty is going up everywhere; complexity isn’t. Two years ago, if I wanted new tools, my only option was to go to the hardware store. Now the local hardware store gives me a range of options: click-and-collect, collection points or home delivery. Customers still want the same products. What has changed is they want flexible delivery options. Product distribution has advanced more than the product itself.
The best retail executives use supply chain experts to improve the distribution of products, just like hospital executives use doctors to improve emergency patient care.
This frees them up to focus on the complex challenges. That might be the strategic decision to reshore the supply of hardware tools from a distant global region (to a country closer to the end customer). This is where executive involvement is vital to speed up decision-making, co-ordinate action, and get commitment across the global regions and functions. And throughout it all, customers want uninterrupted product availability and choice. That’s a complex challenge – one that calls out for swift executive action to steer the different stakeholders in the right direction.
As you look across your global operations, where are your highly-complex challenges, with many stakeholders? Not every big challenge needs full-time executive involvement. Better to delegate and trust your experts to deal with the high-uncertainty, low-complexity challenges. By triaging decisions, it leaves you free to get on with the truly complex issues – like reshoring – that your global company has.