Senior executive meetings can be frustrating affairs for corporate strategists. They’re either faced with senior execs that aren’t particularly interested in going through (yet another) strategic planning session when there’s quarterly sales goals to be hit, or strategists are faced with anxiety about committing time and funds to uncertain long-term ideas.
This latter problem is particularly evident when strategists want senior leaders to respond to legitimate competitive intelligence about what rivals are up to. In fact, 69% of strategists say that prompting senior decision-makers to respond to opportunities or threats in a timely manner is their biggest competitive intelligence challenge.
While strategists may be confident in their analysis of competitive intelligence (CI), senior leaders often receive conflicting recommendations from a various sources that make them doubt what information to believe. And, on top of that, peers in the meeting can bring-up other risks that raise yet more doubt. So it’s not surprising that senior leaders request further information to support a recommendation. These requests delay response time often leading to missed opportunities.
Although all this need for more information and time can seem to senior managers as necessary to be good stewards of the large firm they control, being fast is also important. Companies where executives accept that they must respond faster to a competitive threat or opportunity realize 36% higher returns on the CI they receive, on average, according to CEB data.
Reduce the Noise, Don’t Strengthen the Signal
In a bid to get executives making quicker decisions, strategists often focus on making information more credible and consumable. Most strategists fall into this approach either because it is within their control or because it is the way things have always been done.
And it can be effective, but it is not the most efficient way to get a response to good CI because it is filled with time consuming activities such as gathering additional material and corroborating it with experts.
Even if strategists do have the resources, strengthening the “signal” is insufficient because it does not solve the real reason that cause executives to seek more information.
However, removing information discrepancies and controlling any negative dynamics in a meeting are two approaches that do target these core doubts.
These tactics manage the “noise.” They have more than double the impact that improving the signal strength has. Some examples are:
Producing a synthesis report to explain the areas of agreement among rival sources and to clarify the assumptions that lead to divergent points of view.
Creating post-mortem analysis to let senior leaders objectively observe and evaluate their decision-making patterns—and change their practices if necessary.
Rating the credibility of data on scorecards to recognize short-comings upfront and focus conversation on what the indicators mean, and what to do about them.