Ignore These at your Peril: Adaptability and Decentralized Decision-Making

Adaptability:  In the Car Shop industry, work flows to them  — from customers walking in with their car problems, everyday, 7 days a week — without knowing in advance what is required. These folks have the ability to create an unknown output from an unpredictable input. They have a system that is designed for adaptability: a flow-based system. A system with prioritized work flow vis-à-vis resource capacity. Yes, I cannot just walk in and demand for my car to be fixed right away at that moment. They always have a work in process all the time, and, on top of that, they have a 3-car deep backlog on average. So, I have to wait for my turn. Sometimes, however, I get lucky and I get my car worked on right there and then. They also have limited capacity — the team can only do so much in a day — to address their backlog and prioritized work.

car-shopThe car shop that I go to have a very good, well-trained, experienced and informed team of multidisciplinary people … and they also have great tools,  software and hardware to use to help diagnose and fix the problem. They’ll do what is needed to be done.

Centralized decision-making: the only time they need input from me are: 1) Problem definition: I tell them why I’m there; 2) Executive decision: once they have researched (analyzed) and synthesized the problem, they’ll tell me how much it will cost me, and how long it will take them to fix the problem, and then they’ll ask me if I want for them to proceed with the work or not.

Decentralized decision-making: they do the rest – without any other input or direction from me. They have the expertise, experience, local context, and empowerment that enable them to decide and execute. Note that they are, in fact, exhibiting a high-accountability decentralized decision-making and empowered execution.

csr-shop2.jpgIn this car shop example, although there are many people in the car shop to look into various car problems, they work and act as if they were one organism. They have that “shared and collective consciousness” — the awareness, information, and knowledge of what is going on. They have a sense of perspective to effectively assess the situation and challenge on hand—to act on it wisely. It is paramount, therefore, that information must flow to everyone– not just limited to a very few – in order to get everyone on the same page, with the same vision, mission and objective.

This situation is not limited to Car Shops alone…it is also applicable in other industries…like hospitals (specially in the Emergency Room)…and even in the airline industry.

What happens if/when they –the experienced, informed and knowledgeable teams of multidisciplinary people—were replaced by people who do not have the aforementioned know-how…but were trained in checklist-based efficiency (akin to automation)…and determined to follow procedures that they lose track of what mattered? Worst, if there is a situation that is not in the procedure/playbook, that they do not know what to do?

Disaster!

asiana2

Relying heavily on automation (akin to checklists and procedures), pilots’ mismanagement and confusion caused Asiana Flight 214 to crash in San Francisco. The Asiana flight crew over-relied on automated systems of which they did not fully understand…and cockpit culture in which the senior captain is viewed as supreme (i.e.  hesitancy by pilots to challenge a captain’s actions), were identified as factors.asiana

The contrast is the  US Airways Flight 1549 — Miracle on the Hudson. usairCaptain Chesley Sullenberger and his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles are knowledgeable and experienced pilots… and on that day, they exhibited adaptability: they were able to surmount the unexpected challenge with unpredictable outcome. usair2They had  the awareness, information, and knowledge of what is going on. They had a sense of perspective to effectively assess the situation and challenge on hand and acted on it wisely.

In a nutshell: adaptability provides effective adaptation to emerging problems and opportunities…and  decentralized decision-making reduces delay — delivering value with speed* and accuracy**.

*Speed: any decision that must be escalated to higher levels of authority introduces a delay in delivery; missed opportunities — opportunities that disappear in seconds or minutes; even leads to death and destruction.
** Accuracy: escalated decisions can decrease decision’s degree of exactness  due to the lack of local context.

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