Picture yourself aboard a plane, but the pilots, for some unforeseen reason, are unable to drive it. Even with access to the manual that explains each detail of operating the aircraft, you would be hard-pressed to be able to land it successfully. Your working memory needs very fast access to information in order to make the right call.
This is a compelling analogy for what I believe is at the core of enabling a company to make great decisions: everyone should have working memory access to the same information that the management team has.
If I were to summarise what our leadership team knows at SEOmonitor, it would come to four themes:
- Visibility into every project — what each department and team is working on right now.
- Deep customer knowledge — why certain groups of users are more valuable than others.
- Very good understanding of the product — the ability to clearly articulate its value proposition and come up from memory with simple examples that illustrate it.
- Strong knowledge of the competition.
Every productive company out there has figured out a way of enabling these four, but of all the ceremonies, the one that I found to have the biggest impact is the week-long company retreat.
We organized our own retreat 2 months ago, and each day was focused on one of these areas. On the last day, I hosted a workshop on our competitive landscape, and instead of delivering a lecture about where we’re positioned, I split the team into parties of two and decided as a group which competitors to trial.
After 2 and a half hours of research, each group presented their learnings to the whole company. The direct experience gave everyone a newfound purpose and a mission around the product and made them feel a lot more confident in talking with customers.
The lesson: if you want great decisions, don’t just tell employees information. Make them experience it. Have teams do real research and present findings. People remember – and act on – what they discover for themselves.