The culture of your business and accepting responsibility.
In your organisation, do managers make (and continue to own) decisions, or do tough challenges go through committees?
This week the culture of General Motors has been discussed at the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee in Washington. This hearing is in reference to safety problems with a component used in vehicles; a problem made worse by the culture, which allowed known safety problems to fester for years and will be hard to change.
The committee observed that senior executives of GM are unable to identify who was responsible for decisions about using the problem component. This is due, in part, to the ‘avoidance’ culture within the company whereby employees within committees avoided using words that would force people to ask (and answer) hard questions.
The committee observed the company culture consists of the ‘GM nod’ – look to others to do something and the ‘GM salute’ – no one accepts responsibility. This is a damming observation of a major corporation, but could it be a part of the culture in your organisation?
How do you make decisions?
As losses can affect a manager’s career more than gains, the preference is to avoid a loss rather than make a gain – called loss aversion. This behaviour leads to committees, whereby the group makes the (loss averse) decision, but none are responsible for the outcome.
This factor was magnified as organisations moved from a focus on operations to administration – from a focus on doing to that of strategy and planning. From my perspective this has resulted in a noticeable reduction in the willingness to make and own a decision; not only in product industries, but across all sectors.
An important part of your organisation’s culture is ‘how things are done around here’ to achieve positive outcomes. In the Asia Pacific region the approach can differ between countries due to the influence of community cultures, although there is a blurring due to the presence of multinational companies, globalisation and movement of executives.
By all means meet with the group of people who can best provide inputs and counter-arguments to the proposal, but at the end of this consultative process, you are the person to make the decision and be willing to put your name to it. The more that managers do this, the less likely you business will develop the culture that appears to have enveloped General Motors.