I saw an interview yesterday with Mark Cuban, the oft interviewed businessman and star of reality TV show Shark Tank. Among other things, he talked about the impending presidential election driving market uncertainty. As he put it “…there’s the uncertainty of the election.” Oh, it’s not just uncertainty the election is driving; it’s slowness in decision-making too!

If you’re a communication consultant and you’ve been in business for 9+ years, you already understand the dynamic. This is the fourth presidential election I’ve experienced since starting Eloquor. I’ve seen it four times now and I take that to be a pretty strong pattern. Every election year, my work slows down a bit as client companies wait for that other shoe to drop. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t seem to matter which party wins the election. Just that the election is over; then they can get back to business. But in the 8 months leading up, most can’t make decisions about starting or finishing anything.

Business is slowing down in general

Experiencing the dynamic again reminded me of an article I read in the February edition of Fortune titled Revving Up Your Corporate RPMs. The article looks at what may cause slower corporate decision-making and the associated costs. Author Tom Monahan also looks at examples of some organizations fixing their paralysis; like a US hospital chain improving its hiring process, which reduced costs.

Add the elements Monahan discusses in his article – larger company size, constant “transformation,” misuse of technology and growth of risk-management – to the election factor and you’ve got a recipe for Tim Conway Old Sheriff slowness. Here are some interesting examples:

  • One regional company desperately wants to improve the intranet, but IT is too busy with a “transformative” implementation that will “keep them from focusing on the intranet until 2018.” A great intranet could actually help employees engage with major change initiatives.
  • We finished helping a client roadmap their digital workplace well over a year ago. They still haven’t launched anything. Any employee champions gained in the research phase have likely been lost to the waiting game, making driving adoption that much harder.
  • A global client shelved a decision on employee profile photos until a time when it is “less risky.” For now, they use security badge photos.
  • One organization can’t commit the budget to improve its intranet because budgets are never really final; budgets change dramatically after the fiscal year begins and right up until it ends.

For me, the slow-down in decision-making even affects the contracting process; it used to take about 2 months to close a deal and now it takes more like 6-8 months.

If US business slows the wheels of decision-making every four years, imagine the losses: hard dollar expenses as well as lost talent, revenue, innovation and time. It can boil down to lost competitiveness. If this election-caused slow-down is now added to an already dramatic pace reduction overall, then perhaps business won’t recover before the next US presidential election comes around. Will things just get slower and slower?

Educate on collaboration for improved decision-making

Monaghan talks about the rise of collaboration and related software tools contributing to a slow-down in decision-making. This is testament to the fact that most organizations have no idea how to use their tools effectively. If the project leaders do know, they certainly aren’t teaching employee users. Collaborative business processes and collaboration tools should reduce stress, reduce waste and improve productivity. But, we aren’t very smart about our tools and training.

Improve decision-making by helping employees learn how to use collaboration tools

Anyone can learn how to effectively incorporate digital collaboration tools into their work day.

Education on collaboration tools can come in many different forms, but I recommend using the tools themselves in the process:

  • Open workshops, sort of like Apple’s Genius Bar, where users can drop in – in-person or virtually – to ask questions, try things out, or share with others
  • Just-in-time, 90-second video instructions taped by other employee users
  • Case studies about how teams are successfully making use of the tools, highlighting how they help speed decisions up
  • Practice forums and groups where people can try new tools and see how others are using them

Interested in learning more about using collaboration tools to improve business decisions? Join me at one of these events where we’ll talk about this and more!

  1. ALI’s Internal Communications for Health Care in Washington, D.C., in September
  2. IABC Southern Region Conference in Atlanta in October
  3. ALI’s Intranet and Digital Workplace Summit in Chicago in November

In the meantime, here’s hoping the wheels of business get rolling faster soon!