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IN

SITE

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COVER STORY

“At T.A. Cook, the positive approach to mistakes plays

an important role. Performance diagrams which are

marked red, that is, days where things don’t go perfect-

ly, are seen positively,”

says Zanger.

“They are indica-

tors of a ‘free to fail’ culture.”

Which begs the ques-

tion of how the right failure and trust culture can be

achieved. Addressing employees, answering emails

directly, being present where the problems arise and

working with people to find solutions all promote ac-

cessibility. So do managers really need the trust of all

their employees? At the end of the day, senior manag-

ers expect obedience – not in a military sense, but out

of economic necessity. It’s less about managers gaining

the personal trust of their employees – which is an un-

fair request – but instead that they all follow the same

path, which has more to do with discipline than trust.

And when managers have to make unpopular deci-

sions, that trust often evaporates quickly.

Conscious Decisions

Making decisions isn’t difficult. Every day, we make un-

countable numbers of immediate decisions. Shall I stay

in bed a bit longer, or get up as soon as my alarm goes

off? Shall I drink coffee or tea today? We make these

decisions without really thinking about them; they are

mainly decided by habit and we refer to them as routine

decisions.

But when it comes to making really important or unique

decisions, which is normal in change projects, things

are a bit different. And it becomes even more complicat-

ed when others in different fields will be affected by the

decision. Then the decision-making process can take a

long time, either because of fear of making a mistake or

due to the decision-making culture. Decisions can be

made according to different levels of cooperation: tell,

argue, advice, or consensus. The larger the level of co-

operation, the longer the decision-making process and

the more open the result.

On the whole, at the end of the cooperation huge com-

promises have been made, which can be helpful in some

“Trust means that team members do things without permanently

asking their managers about them.”

cases. In change management projects however, this ap-

proach is deadly. Making wrong decisions is problem-

atic, but they can often be relatively quickly corrected.

A larger problem is the length of time needed to make

decisions, a so-called “decision-vacuum.” This leads to

a sort of stalemate and the consequence is that the cy-

clist falls of his bike.

We tend to make decisions only once we have fully

understood the implications of them. Depending on

individual personality profiles, we need some level of

detailed information. A change process by definition

means treading new ground. There is precious lit-

tle guidance and that sometimes comes from sources

which may not be 100% trustworthy, such as consul-

tant benchmarking systems. In order to make quick de-

cisions, the “trial and error” mode should be turned off.

Making perfectly well-balanced decision is sometimes

less important than making the decision quickly.

That requires managerial courage and is exactly the

behavior which T.A. Cook tries to inspire during its

change process projects – even when the decision is

not perfect and seems like a mistake in hindsight. A

Chinese proverb states that those who don’t take the

most direct path develop the best knowledge of their

surroundings. Speed will only be reached when not all

decisions are top down and not everything has to be

approved in advance. Obviously some rules need to be

observed, amongst others, the ability for senior manag-

ers to veto certain decisions. When decisions are seen to

be “wrong” from a senior perspective, then they should

be corrected without calling the decision-making com-

petence of others into question.

Instant Feedback

Do you have goals? That’s good. What is decisive is

how you reach your goals. No one goes from zero to

hero: that much we know. But somehow we still ex-

pect it, even when we are aware that it is unrealistic.

We all know that. But when “impossible” goals are still

reached, it is either due to exceptionally strong lead-