Agile decision-making in business

Challenging times require agile decision-making and the willingness to adapt to the constant changes in the business landscape. Rapid decision-making and the effective implementation of a well-researched strategy is highly dependent upon a phenomenon called ‘the speed of trust’.

By Dirk Coetsee

During operation Desert Storm in Iraq, General ‘Stormin’ Norman’ Schwarzkopf became famous for the impressive rate and quality at which his commands were executed. Implementation of his strategies happened at ‘the speed of trust’.

General Schwarzkopf was highly respected by his fellow soldiers for his decorated actions in Vietnam. He was awarded a medal for bravery after risking his own life to drag a wounded fellow soldier to safety through a minefield.

His impeccable service history and first-hand experience of the harsh conditions soldiers are often faced with, gained him the trust of the soldiers under his command, his fellow commanders and his superiors. His vast experience enabled him to act swiftly and in the best interest of everyone.

Schwarzkopf’s example proves the importance of character in leadership in any organization. Character is the opposite of image. Character is what we consistently display through our visible actions; brave, honest, and strong characteristics inspire others to follow at the speed of trust. Image, on the other hand is what we want others to think of us and is not a sustainable solution for building trust.

How do we duplicate the speed of trust within the franchise sector, implement effective strategy with a velocity that is impossible to copy, and adapt to the changes forced upon us by our ever-evolving market conditions? The answer, at least in part, is for franchisors to prove the success of their systems and innovations by implementing these processes in company-owned stores, to swiftly recognize their failures and apply lessons learnt. This requires effective and consistent hard work.

By engaging in market research not only when we are unsure about the way forward, but as a matter of principle, franchisors demonstrate that they take market conditions and competition seriously. Another crucial element is maintaining a dual focus on franchise culture while preserving the critical balance between standardised work and ongoing innovation.

What is culture? It’s nothing but the collective habits of all those committed to the common cause. Enhancing the already established habits that serve the whole franchise system and helping to eradicate the bad ones, is a critical success factor in any leadership position. This is not an easy feat as establishing a habit can take a whole year.

Establishing a learning culture is critical for any franchise system that strives to maintain and improve standards and we do so through best practise platforms, by providing ongoing training and monitoring the implementation of the training. Constant learning, research and the practical application thereof is the most effective antidote to disruption.

To maintain the challenging balance of innovation and standardised work, it is crucial to conduct regular store visits that focus on monitoring standards while also providing regular training to establish those standards as habits.

The remedy to standards becoming challenged by advances in technology or competitors that have found a more effective way to operate, is to never focus on either aspect to the exclusion of the other. Rather make both, standardised work and innovation, operational standards — innovation should become a way of life.

Working at the speed of trust, a daily focus on culture, and maintaining the balance of innovation and standardised work, along with other key principles, form the foundation of sustainable success and growth within the franchise sector.