Ever worked for an organisation who employ CYA as the primary decision making methodology? (CYA = Cover Your Ass) worse still do you work for one now? I have, many over the years sadly. Those companies are all paralysed by indecision because as a decision making methodology CYA takes lots of time and slows decision making down turning a potentially nimble organisation into a bureaucratic dinosaur.

There are people who have completely perfected the art of CYA, you can spot them in your workplace as they will use the words policy, assurance and process in the same sentence a great deal of the time. Their other key words are often governance, delegation and sign-off, all of these words are usually combined with the word meeting ie: the need for meetings to discuss how best to CYA, meetings to discuss the results of the CYA effort and so on. OK you get my point.

So how do startups, lean and growth companies approach decision making? With speed because simply put Speed = Executing Fast. OptimalBI’s vision statement includes the phrase “Innovate Fast, Prove it Early” and we embrace this within all of our decision, equally it’s important to recognise when things aren’t working early on and make decisions on whether to pivot or shutdown an initiative with speed as well to ensure we maintain momentum – and can focus on what’s working well vs what’s not working.

Speed isn’t the only aspect to decision making in a startup, lean or growth company – consultation, collaboration, innovation and uncertainty round it out broadly. This article on LinkedIN “Productivity Hacks: Speed and Tempo are keys to fearless decision making” makes some excellent points, my favourite “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.”

An interesting technique I have been trialling recently is employing this decision making process from a post on Map Out your Decision Making:

“Whenever you’re making a consequential decision…just take a moment to think, write down what you expect to happen, why you expect it to happen and then write down how you feel about the situation, both physically and even emotionally.”

Through employing this technique I do take a moment or 5. It’s really important even in making a decision with speed to think it through, what the consequences might be or the potential unintended consequences. As a typical ENTJ I need the discipline of questioning my dominantly intuitive decision making style so writing it down, thinking through what I expect to happen really helps.

Simply put CYA is a cultural issue, to reinvent a company who is paralysed by bureaucracy, has slow momentum and is entirely governed through policies and sign-offs is virtually impossible. The CYA culture will be systemic and breaking down such an engrained structure takes fortitude. It is hard as a company grows however to find a balance and retain the speed of decision making required to continue with the forward momentum you have enjoyed to date – just watch out for the warning signs of CYA creeping in and stamp it out immediately.

I wish there was a secret sauce I could offer here to perfecting what will work best for your company, there isn’t. Try and find a technique that works for you and stick with it, if it’s no longer achieving what you need like everything reassess, evaluate other techniques and frameworks and if you go down those paths ensure you can prove it early. Equally if I change tactic I will let you know. Happy Sharing, Vic.

PS: As ever Dilbert hits the nail on the head here – thanks http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2010-12-23/