Many problems with decision making inside the company can be attributed to three causes:
1. Bad process
2. Good processes but nobody follows up
3. The decision looks personal, when it isn’t
I will deal with number 3 here, others to come.
If you take away form me a percentage of my budget, perhaps in the context of budget trimmings or real cuts, there is a chance I will take it personally. OK, I hear you saying, not me, I am mature enough, etc. Congratulations. But chances are your people, or some of them will. Why? ‘They’ did not cut division B; Division C are allowed to recruit, not us; Group D can have that incentive scheme, we can’t. Is that not personal? Call it how you will.
Perhaps it’s personal! (Houston, you have a problem) but another possibility is that in the priority setting system, something has got higher than you, and this is not a reflection of your area, business unit, team, or portfolio. You have not got X because somebody has got Y. The problem is that nobody has expressed this to you or you people. It’s a black box descending form Finance, take it or leave it.
I have this quasi non-negotiable rule for you. Every time you say what you are not going to do, say something about what you are going to do instead. The keyword is instead. Instead is the most noble and powerful keyword in decision making. Practice it all the time!
People can understand trade offs, they may or may not like them, but once the process is transparent, most people will get on with it. Or project A is delayed, we are boosting project B. We have a recruiting freeze, R&D needs a new Lab. We postpone going into market X, we are increasing our presence in Y.
Note: this is why ‘cuts across the board’, as in ‘give me 10% of all budgets’ are nonsense, and most likely a sign of bad portfolio management. The universal cut is always (always) a symptom of bad management. Not even a minimal trade-off in the system equals alarm bells in your health status. But this is a conversation for another day.