Intuition, commitments, and team decisions; Antoine Hraoui, CEO of Intalio, talks about decision making processes during times of crisis. For this exclusive insider interview, we sat down with our CEO to discuss the processes of making decisions, key players, and decision-making tools.
Here is the full interview:
What procedures do you follow when making a decision?
When I do not make decisions, life decides for me.
Many bad decisions are taken because the related objectives aren’t clearly identified in the first place. Therefore, the first step in decision making is clearly defining the nature of the decision.
Once the nature of the decision is clearly stated, relevant information should be gathered. The process of gathering information can be simple or quite complex based on the intricacy of the objectives. A process of gathering structured information related to each objective should be performed using internal and external resources.
Finally, information gathering will naturally expose various alternatives. Carefully weighing each using objective thinking will lead to the right one.
Error is human. Nevertheless, a decision is hardly irreversible. Always develop a rollback plan.
What approach do you most often use (intuition, rationality, …)?
Without intuition, life is boring.
Consciously, my objective is to make decisions based on a well-defined and rational process. I do admit that quite often I tend to forget about facts and go with my guts, even if reason points in the other direction.
Purest intuitions are usually right. Practicing intuition-centric decision making transforms an emotional process into a more scientific one where intuitions are assessed to give way to the right decision.
Have you ever fallen into the trap of escalation of commitment? If yes, how did you handle the feedback, and how do you think you could have handled it differently?
As I mentioned in the first question, I always develop a rollback plan and review the consequences to decide whether to stay on or alter the course of actions. Yet, obstinacy is part of human nature. It happens that I “decide” to face negative outcomes through stubbornness that I confuse with determination. Nevertheless, I always end up, sometimes a bit late (better late than never), reviewing my data and alternatives to change the course of actions.
How often do you base your decisions on intuition?
My reply could be always and never. A decision-making process is never exclusively based on reason or intuition. It is a combination of reasoned rational and practiced intuition. Even decisions that look intuition-centric from the outside, integrate some intangible – rather psychological – reasoning.
Do you make better decisions alone or in a group? When do you usually ask for help?
My input weighs a lot in a decision, but I never decide alone. The decision-making process requires assistance, mainly in the first three steps:
- Clearly defining the nature of a decision.
- Gathering information on each of its objectives.
- Identifying and weighing alternatives.
Deciding and setting the course of actions is more personal. The input of colleagues remains of some importance, however.
Two employees are having regular conflicts with each other and often disturb the team’s balance. How would you handle the situation?
It all depends on the nature of the conflict, as well as the position and intentions of the concerned employees.
I consider that there is no place for conflictual minds; their day-to-day actions do not only disturb the team’s balance but undermine the whole strategy of the group. Nevertheless, a firm cannot be free of well-intentioned conflicts. A well-managed conflict ends up increasing motivation, improving communication, as well as individual and collective performance.
Resolving common conflicts between employees is usually not a complicated task. Showing empathy towards them reveals my concern for their well-being. De-dramatizing conflicts and taking the heat out of debates show the futility of conflicts and the professionalism of debates.
Regular and frequent conflicts may hide conflictual minds… bringing us back to point one above.
Is employee input important in your opinion?
Input from employees is institutionalized within our group; We have set up several business-specific committees, where a representative body of various businesses, depending on their position and competence, actively participate in the governance of the group. They also report the results and decisions systematically to the concerned employees. Other matters require input from all employees. We do organize a few polls in order to keep employees involved.
Input from employees and their contribution to the governance of the group balances the capital/labor ratio, improves social dialogue, and improves the sustainable performance of the firm.
How do you process group decision making? What are the advantages of this situation?
Within our group, decisions can be made by individuals alone. However, most decisions emanate from a working group. In this latest case, there are three different decision-making models:
- By agreement: a group of employees decides on a certain course of action, such as schedules, presence, and so on.
- By vote: based on the nature of the topic, decisions are either made based on a majority of votes (i.e., business-related) or by unanimity (i.e., major investments).
- By authority: arbitration of the CEO with representatives of the employees.
The advantages of group decision making are mainly the following:
- Quantity and quality of information: interactive discussions within the group increase the amount and nature of the information that will help in making the decision.
- Better acceptance of the decision: a decision taken collectively is better understood and accepted than a decision imposed unilaterally.
- Greater commitment to the decision: individuals associated with a decision more readily adhere to the resulting actions or changes.
There are a few drawbacks thou, however.
Describe a time you had to make an immediate decision on a critical decision.
Acquiring a company in France was rather an intuitive decision where we acquired a French firm that was about to be bought by another group; it looked very complementary to our business and compliant with our geographical expansion.
I was abroad and had a few hours to take a critical and risky decision. I gathered the board over Zoom and requested a unanimous vote. I was only able to give them a few but essential information. I rather explained that my guts tell me that we should go for it. I explained though that we will include a clause that will allow us to perform a post-acquisition due diligence with similar effects and guarantees. I was able to win the commitment of all and did the operation.
What decision-making tools do you use (probability theory, decision tree, historical date/secondary information, rule of thumb)?
We separate decision-making techniques and decision-making tools. Techniques are usually based on marginal analysis as well as SWOT diagrams. We implement these techniques using information analysis and governance tools that we have developed internally (and that we actually distribute), as well as regular operations and financial reports.
How do biases affect your decisions and their results?
A bias alters our choices and pushes us to make the wrong decisions. Am I concerned? If I answer “no” then I am clearly a victim of an overconfidence bias.
The most common biases I face on a regular basis are self-overconfidence, overconfidence in a few close resources, and excess use of intuition and emotions. They do affect my decisions and consequently their results.