How do we get our heads around all that is going on around us, so we can create powerful ideas, solve problems and make decisions? Effective decision making involves three high performance leadership behaviours: ‘information search’, ‘idea creation’ and ‘flexible thinking’.
These are the ten key steps involved:
- Clearly define the situation or goal.
- Create a value for research and knowledge gathering throughout your team.
- Collect as much information as possible from a board range of sources, from both ‘within’ and ‘outside’ of the situation to get a wide rich viewpoint of what’s going on. Governmental regulations, legal developments, market conditions, economic factors, market research and technological developments can all affect the situation.
- Form ideas and judgements from the information available. Link in the information from the wider environment to make better sense of the situation. Don’t get bogged down by the details – look at the ‘whole’.
- Involve others to encourage the generation of ideas. Brainstorm all alternatives. Entertain all ideas at this stage.
- Consider at least two viable solutions or options. Hold options in ‘parallel’ not ‘in series’.
- Compare the pros and cons of all solutions simultaneously.
- Consider the consequences and impact of each option. Who does it impact? Is it achievable? Are the timescales realistic?
- Based on your analysis, choose the best possible option, form an action plan and implement your decision. Be specific and set measurable targets.
- Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Always have a backup plan. Implement a process for continuous review so, if new information arises, you are ready to revise and adapt.
A County Council are looking to use smart meter technology to help look after frail and elderly people living on their own. It’s a great example of high performance Idea Creation
The my360plus ‘Idea Creation’ High Performance Behaviour is all about making connections and in particular coming up with bigger ideas that link simpler ones together. It often involves linking ideas from the wider environment to add real value to the task in hand. It is one of the behaviours rated and coached in every individual and team 360 development profile.
The council has responsibility for adult social care, including helping vulnerable elderly people in their communities. As well as the formal care they offer (visits from their care workers), they have realised that there is a wider network of support available, including neighbours willing to help out and charities who support the elderly in various ways. They realised that if they helped coordinate between these different groups, they could ensure more consistent care, and importantly reduce the gaps between visits. They now do this using coordinated SMS messages so that all ‘interested’ parties can keep informed and coordinate between themselves.
In a totally separate initiative, they are also working with the local power distribution company on the roll out of smart meters – electricity meters that report in very fine detail the power usage of households. They are using this data to help focus energy saving initiatives to poorer households with high energy use, thus reducing the overall level of fuel poverty in their area.
So far so good – two solid ideas – level 3 (basic high performance) Idea Creation behaviour, supported, as is often the case, by some wider Information Search.
But then came the level 4 (higher level) overarching idea.
What if you could (with full consent of the individual of course), monitor the electricity usage patterns of an elderly person living on their own, and flag any unusual breaks in that pattern using the text networks they had already established?
So imagine a vulnerable person living on her own with some supportive neighbours who pop in most days and keep an eye on her. She rises early each morning and puts on the electric kettle at around 5am. After a few days, this pattern is spotted by the system, and so if one day this spike in electricity usage isn’t seen at about that time, a text is automatically sent to the neighbour who can pop in and check all is ok. Smart, simple and effective.
There are lots of opportunities to use higher level Idea Creation behaviour, and it is a critical part of the my360plus ‘Think’ cluster, together with Information Search and Flexible Thinking behaviours. The key is to get in the habit of stepping back and making time to link information about apparently different topics to form powerful ideas and solutions. This skill of strategic thinking can form part of your 360 leadership development programme.
We were asked by a client last week if we could remove from our questionnaire the statements that probe ‘strategic’ level behaviour on the grounds that the relatively junior managers we are working with “can’t influence the strategy”. Our reply was that Level 5, or strategic level, behaviour is relevant for even the most junior team members.
In the Schroder framework the behaviours at Level 5 are the actions an individual takes to promote the high performance behaviour in others, even when they themselves are not there. Putting in place a system or process that enables the behaviour to happen (to be ‘done’ by others), even if the instigator is not present, is Level 5 behaviour. An example here for Level 5 Information Search might be setting up a monthly survey to gather information relevant to a project or process. The information gathering will now happen regularly, whether or not the instigator is present. Similarly a system or process that encourages a culture or value for a behaviour may also be Level 5. Level 5 Flexible Thinking might be introducing a team ‘rule’ that whenever the team is coming up with ideas, options or solutions, there always has to be at least four or five viable options on the table instead of the normal two or three. This encourages the development in that team of a culture of leaving no option unexplored rather than just going with the standard options that present themselves (and may not move the team/company/project on).
In practice this Level 5 or strategic behaviour can lead to significant performance improvements, especially if other high level behaviour is present in the same person or team – this is what we mean when we give an individual or a team a rating of ‘Strategic Strength’. That Level 5 Information Search survey may lead to an important trend being spotted, the root cause of a problem being identified or a new market opening, especially if combined with high level Idea Creation. That Level 5 Flexible Thinking may lead to an innovative new approach to delivery or a more robust solution to a problem.
So while we call it strategic-level behaviour, it’s not necessarily about the strategy of the business, although it will most certainly have a positive impact on this, too, in the longer term.
Most people have the potential to work at Level 5 in a handful of behaviours, whatever their rank within the organisation. And pretty much everyone can help promote high level behaviour in others, even if it’s just regularly reiterating how important that behaviour is. In fact, putting in place a communications or development programme to help every individual within the organisation understand their potential and know that it is valued, regardless of rank, is also potentially strategic behaviour.