The UK vaccination programme is clearly a world-beater. Here we have the highest proportion of the population immunised against COVID-19. It is an impressive achievement given that the calculations were that it would take at least a year to vaccinate all adults. It looks like we’ll have done that inside eight months from starting in December last year to finishing in July.
To make sure that this all works, there are complicated and speedy decisions needed to ensure that the supply chain is operating well. Quick decisions are also required to be certain that the delivery of jabs into arms occurs according to schedule. Luckily for us, the man in charge is a former chemical engineer turned businessman. Government Minister Nadhim Zahawi is used to making decisions quickly. He founded the polling organisation YouGov which produces “in the moment” analysis needing rapid decisions. He is backed by the Royal Logistics Corps of the British Army, another group of people with the ability to analyse a situation speedily and react quickly. Then there’s the NHS. That survives on medical professionals making life-saving decisions minute-by-minute.
Meanwhile, we are in the pickle for which we needed this excellent vaccination programme because of obviously slow and lingering decision-making by the Prime Minister and his gang. Experts of all kinds have filled the broadcasting airwaves, saying we should have gone into lockdown earlier and that we ought to have barred incoming flights sooner. But the Government dithered, not sure whether to go one way or the other. To help support them, they employed the services of two major global accountancy firms – neither of which had experience in anything like “track and trace”. Besides, when have you heard of consultancy firms like these make rapid decisions?
The two sides of the UK “strategy” for dealing with COVID-19 present a clear example of the impact of the speed of decision-making. When decisions were made rapidly by people experienced in quick thinking, we did end up with a world-beating vaccination system. Yet when the decisions were made slowly, we have a track and trace system that is, frankly, a global laughing stock.
There is clear evidence that when we make rapid decisions we perform better. All too often, I see in both business and the higher education sector a decision-making process that is slow and cumbersome. The result is delay, missed opportunities, and confusion.
The consultancy firm McKinsey recently published data on the speed of decision-making during the pandemic. This showed, for instance, that in companies that made decisions rapidly, innovation was about five times greater than in the slow-thinking firms. Not only that, but companies that make quick decisions have financial performance that is 2.5 times greater than businesses that dither. Rapid decision-making is also associated with significantly higher growth.
Slow decision-making causes delays, obviously. But it also leads to confusion amongst the workforce as to why there is that delay. It also means that there is a gap in which customers can go elsewhere. And all that is before you consider that slow decision-making can mean the competition to a business can forge ahead.
Back in 1994, Jeff Bezos made the quick decision to provide everything from A to Z in one massive online shop. He started Amazon as soon as e-commerce became a reality in July 1994. He saw the opportunity and took it immediately. Meanwhile, here we are, 27 years later, and there are still retailers “wondering” whether they should set up an online shop. Derr….!?
Major retailers have spent decades dithering. They have pondered over data. They have commissioned research. They have conducted focus groups. All of this, in the name of being able to “make a decision” that is fully informed. Nonsense. It is all about putting off making a decision.
When you put off making a decision, you end up in trouble. Being decisive is clearly linked to success. Ask a surgeon struggling to stem unexpected bleeding. Dithering doesn’t help them save the patient. Ask a member of the Royal Logistics Corps considering how to get bullets to the front line. Delaying a decision doesn’t help their soldiers win the battle. Or ask the folks at any “High Street” retailer which has delayed a decision about online shopping. Dithering, in the guise of getting a more informed position, hasn’t helped them deal with the impact of Coronavirus. Being indecisive is the route to failure.
So, what decisions have you been sitting on? Make a choice. Get on with it. Your business will be better off in many ways.
And what if you don’t know what decision to make? Well, you could decide to write a letter to the Prime Minister explaining that the country would be much better off with rapid decision-making and no dithering. It’s the dithering that required us to have a world-beating vaccination programme.
Well, Reader, that's it for another Saturday. I wish you well for the week ahead. See you in just seven days.
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