This article first appeared in Fortune Greece and is reproduced with their kind permission.
Q - In collaboration with Crowe Global you publish “The Art of Smart” research. Tell us a few words about it. What it means for Crowe and for businesses, what is the story behind it?
A – One of the most prevalent challenges for business leaders nowadays, is how to ensure decision-making is efficient, effective and driving growth in what, for many, is an uncertain environment. Crowe’s purpose is to enable clients to make those smarter decisions that deliver lasting value for their organizations.
We understand organizational decisions come in many guises, and value can mean different things to different stakeholders. Through The Art of Smart we share expert opinion from inside and outside of Crowe to provide vital and actionable insights to leaders, wherever they do business.
In Crowe, we sought to do this by examining over 600 organizations, operating in various industries and different regions around the world and discover which of them is leading the way in the four pillars of smart decision-making: their attitudes and actions around the diversity agenda, their approach to growth, their appetite for boldness, and – finally – how and where they had demonstrated innovation. These four factors have been widely acknowledged for some time as significant contributors to making smarter decisions.
Q - So far you have worked with more than 700 CEOs / boards and thousands of managing directors in more than 30 countries. Tell us more about your experiences. What are the most common "mistakes" you find in terms of management's decision making? Do you have any insights on which fields they are less willing to make a change?
A – Management often seek to make the right decisions for the good of the company, their teams, their customers and their stakeholders. Smart decision making requires both a mix of good data/input/insight as well as experience and intuition. Here is the common opportunity and the potential common ‘mistake’. Most mistakes, in hindsight, were often seen as avoidable had management stopped, to consider the right data/input/insights. For a number of reasons, they were ignored or not fully considered and decisions were sub optimal. It shows us why thoughtfulness and strategic thinking are favorable traits of what we consider to be ‘great management’ in a knowledge based economy which is rapidly changing and shifting.
Q - Can you give us some examples on how "The Art of Smart" has helped management in their decision making process?
A- One of our clients is a large and complex food distribution business. Senior management focused both on innovation and diversity to harness the intelligence of their people. Every month the executive team meet a small number of staff to get real-time insight into ‘what’s actually’ going on, not ‘what they think’ is going on. It’s a very clever mechanism as it means the exec cannot go for more than a month without a reality check. Many leadership teams make decisions on severely time lagged insights and this organization (with 10’s of thousands of people) have been able to ‘hack’ this process, which is also without cost.
Q - Given that during the last decade we have been living in conditions of constant change (economic recession, pandemic, energy crisis), what are the biggest challenges ahead? How should businesses be organized in order to be more resilient to changes in the global economic landscape? How can Crowe and the Art of Smart help them in decision making under such volatile conditions.
A - The illusion is that there was a time when things were not volatile and that there will be a time which is less volatile. Change, as they say, is the constant, however there are number of challenges that our clients are trying to work through, such as:
Agility is an overused word but it defines what’s needed organizationally and from the mindset of the leadership team. Practically, this means increasing the frequency and quality of communication between everyone, especially leaders. The speed of knowledge transfer, in our modern uncertain world, is now the key to ‘value creation’. How fast can the organization ‘know’ something new? How fast can it then act on it/execute on it? How do we make sure that we can effectively get insight/content/knowledge from A to B? The Art of Smart is all about ‘how’ we do this.
Q - The crisis is a two-sided coin, where in addition to the losses it causes, it also creates opportunities. What kind of opportunities do you expect to see in the near future?
A - This is a fascinating area, especially when it comes to talent. Many organizations have very real talent shortages and are on the hunt for the people they feel they need. At the same time we know that employee engagement surveys tell us that people feel underutilized, their talents are going to waste. I see an opportunity to reset our relationship with our existing talent base, given that the world has indeed changed. I’ve not seen an organization come anywhere close to ‘maximizing the potential’ of its talent, even though many organizations profess to aim to do so. The answer? Managers! Managers hold the key to this, not executive level leaders. How though?
Q - Forecasts for the Greek economy and development are really positive. Based on your international experience, what would you advise Greek businesses to take under consideration when it comes to decision making? Are there any insights or any recommendations? Are you aware of any differences in the decision making process between Greek companies and companies from abroad? Do you consider that corporate governance would help them?
A - What has certainly changed compared to the past, is the perception that the decision-making process is not a personal matter but it should rather follow specific, well defined processes and models. The overall development of the Greek economy and subsequently the Greek market, the strong interest of foreign companies and funds to invest in Greece, as well as the upskilling and upgrading of the human capital of the Greek companies themselves - which brings in the country valuable experience from international environments - have all played an important role in this.
In addition, it is really important that Greek companies utilize the available data which makes it easier for them to view the decision-making process under a different prism. Regarding corporate governance, it has helped and will continue to help businesses as it creates specific rules and procedures that ultimately lead to their better operation.
There are always further steps that need to be taken but in any case Greek companies have created a more stable operating environment during the recent past years.
The original Fortune Greece article in Greek can be read here.