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Weekly 3: More efficient management

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Summary: Define your decisions. Make one person responsible. Empower your troops. (~3 min read)
 

Idea Journal Weekly 3

May 17 · Issue #139 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Define your decisions. Make one person responsible. Empower your troops. (~3 min read)

#1. Not all decisions are created equal
You’ve probably experienced the natural conflict between wanting to make decisions more quickly, and feeling that you need more information to ensure that you’re making the right choice.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s solution to this conflict is to split decisions into two types: irreversible decisions and reversible decisions.
Bezos writes in a 2015 letter to shareholders that irreversible decisions are like one-way doors: “If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before.”
You should make these decisions carefully, methodically, slowly, and with a lot of deliberation. An example of an irreversible decision might be selling your business. Or in your personal life, deciding to have a child. 
But as Bezos points out, most decisions aren’t like that. 
Most decisions are like two-way doors – changeable and reversible.
If you make a suboptimal reversible decision, “you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through.”
Bezos notes that as organizations get larger, they tend to use a “one-size-fits-all” decision-making process. 
They’ll apply the laborious process for making irreversible decisions to decisions that are reversible.
As Bezos puts it: “The end result of this is slowness, unthoughtful risk aversion, failure to experiment sufficiently, and consequently diminished invention.”
#2. When everyone's responsible, no one's responsible
Authors Lauren McCann and Gabriel Weinberg write in their book Super Thinking that a “critical endeavor for your organization is making the boundaries around roles and responsibilities crystal clear.”
One way to do this is to use a technique called the directly responsible individual (DRI). 
After every meeting, you make sure that there’s a DRI who is accountable and responsible for the success of each action item.
Apple popularized the DRI model. And Weinberg’s online search company DuckDuckGo assigns a DRI to every company activity – “from the smallest task to the largest company objective.”
The DRI model works because it helps avoid the bystander effect: “where people fail to take responsibility for something when they are in a group, because they think someone else will take on that responsibility.”
#3. Micromanagement is both annoying and inefficient
Author and researcher Josh Kaufman writes in his book The Personal MBA that, “Micromanagement isn’t simply annoying – it’s extremely inefficient.”
That’s because no set of instructions, no matter how detailed, can cover every contingency: “When something inevitably changes, micromanagement fails.”
Imagine you’re a CEO who insists on micromanaging your employees. 
Think of how overwhelmed you would be. 
The more people who work for you, the more directions you must give to keep everything on track. 
As Kaufman puts it: “If you have ten employees, micromanagement is a hassle. If you have hundreds or thousands, it’s a nightmare.”
Kaufman suggests that a better management approach is “commander’s intent.”
Whenever you assign a task to someone, explain why it must be done. Communicating the intent behind your plans allows people you work with to intelligently respond to changes as they happen.
As Kaufman notes, commander’s intent comes from the military. For example, if a general tells a field commander exactly how to capture a hill and the situation changes, then the field commander has to return to the general for new orders. 
This is slow and inefficient. 
Now imagine that the general explains the strategy to the field commander, and why that particular hill is important and how taking it supports the overall strategy. The field commander can then use his or her knowledge of the goal and new information to act in a way that supports the original intent.
Other Weekly 3 issues about management
Quote of the week
“Effectiveness is the foundation of success – efficiency is a minimum condition for survival after success has been achieved. Efficiency is concerned with doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.”
- Management expert Peter Drucker in his book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices
Idea Journal
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