Formerly on the faculties of Harvard Business School and Northwestern’s Kellogg School, Ram Charan has advised top executives at companies like GE, Ford, DuPont, EDS, and Pharmacia. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including What the CEO Wants You to Know: How Your Company Really Works (Crown Business, 2001).
The job of the CEO, everyone knows, is to make decisions. And most of them do— countless times in the course of their tenures. But if those decisions are to have an impact, the organization must also, as a whole, decide to carry them out. Companies that don’t, suffer from a culture of indecision. In his 2001 article, Ram Charan, one of the world’s preeminent counselors to CEOs, addresses the problem of how organizations that routinely refrain from acting on their CEOs’ decisions can break free from institutionalized indecision. Usually, ambivalence or outright resistance arises because of a lack of dialogue with the people charged with implementing the decision in question. Charan calls such conversations “decisive dialogues,” and he says they have four components: First, they must involve a sincere search for answers. Second, they must tolerate unpleasant truths. Third, they must invite a full range of views, spontaneously offered. And fourth, they must point the way to a course of action. In organizations that have successfully shed a culture of indecision, discussion is always safe. Underperformance, however, is not.
Does this sound familiar? You’re sitting in the quarterly business review as a colleague plows through a two-inch-thick proposal for a big investment in a new product. When he finishes, the room falls quiet. People look left, right, or down, waiting for someone else to open the... [continues]
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