Decision-making (A Better Discussion) – Meet James, Our Main Character

This is the third post in the Decision-making A Better Discussion series (here is a link to the introductory article).  This series is inspired by the works of James G. March. The series’ premise is that decision-making frameworks that are widely used and promulgated by consultants (for example related to strategic planning) brush aside some of the complexity that is too difficult to package into a prescriptive framework. The main aim of is the series is to provide rich stories (that don’t shy away from complexity*) that help organizational leaders reflect on how decision making happens in their organizations and help them identify opportunities for improving their decision-making environments.

In the last post, we provided a description of the organization in which our story takes place and in this post, we meet James who is the leading character of the stories and we’ll be experiencing the stories through his eyes.

James is a 36 year old performance improvement professional. He has more than 10 years of experience in helping organizations analyze complex problems (such as analyzing their business model), developing solutions, as well as implementing improvement projects.

He has a background in management consulting and his experience instilled a sense of pragmatism in him; he values solutions that work as opposed to ideal ones. He is also a certified project manager who has had experience delivering transformational programs (large-scale change programs).

He has recently been hired at our fictional organization as part of the effort to beef up its change capabilities. More specifically he has been hired to manage the governance for the organization’s transformation program as it is changing its business model (details discussed in previous post); this meant that he would manage the operations of a body with the following responsibilities:

  • Setting a vision for the future along with related blueprints (design of process, technology and people environments) and performance targets
  • Approving business cases for strategic initiatives
  • Monitoring implementation / execution

The membership of this forum is made up of senior management representatives including the CEO and the heads of sales, marketing, operations, HR, finance and performance improvement (we later refer to this group as the leadership team). Each senior management representative is assisted by a team within their organization that helped produce relevant analysis needed for decision-making.

James did not establish this governance model. This model was adapted based on existing organizational decision-making processes (mainly the budgeting process). In managing the operations of this governance model he is responsible for:

  • Facilitating setting the agenda which is set by the CEO and the leadership team
  • Facilitating the identification and tracking of decision points
  • Working with different functional teams to ensure they prepare the analysis / content required as per the set agenda
  • Tracking action items

James has always been curious about decision-making and learning from it and therefore keeps a journal in which he describes how specific decisions have unfolded. He attempts to be as descriptive as possible without passing judgement, which he believes helps him better reflect on these decisions later.

As a person, James is lighthearted. He thinks he has a healthy degree of skepticism doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a big stand-up comedy fan and is regular at the local stand-up comedy clubs.

In the next post, titled “Building a business case is simple, right?” we follow James’ on how a business case (for a large-scale change program) was built by the governance body that he is a part of.

*I fully realize that as I am writing this series of posts, I am fully in control of the characters and description of events, and therefore they must at least to some extent reflect my experiences, perceptions, and beliefs and all the biases that accompany them.





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