Every year companies find themselves answering critical questions as they review what they’ve made, what they’ve lost, and where they go from here. Every department, including loss prevention, is evaluated. Every metric, including retail shrink results, is considered as the company looks for answers. Last year’s plans echo in the ears of stockholders as they measure the results of the past year and weigh bottom-line accountability. Did we make money? Did we accomplish the primary objectives that we said we were going to reach? Did we move forward, step back, or simply maintain the status quo? What did we do well? What did we do poorly?
Those questions are then followed by the “whys” and “why nots” that will determine the fate of the organization for the upcoming year and, perhaps, for years to come. As influential people are determining how to spend their money, excuses carry about the same relevance as a bucket of sand in the desert when what they’re looking for is a gallon of water. Programs, policies, processes, promises, and people will be evaluated; and decisions will soon follow. This occurs every year at every level of the organization, determining the direction that the company and its various departments will follow.
Loss prevention departments are no different. Based on the success of the company and the performance of the department, the loss prevention program will be evaluated, decisions will be made, and resources will be allocated. Retail shrink is no longer a concept or a training point, but rather a physical presence in the room as results drive the discussions. Did we reach our goals? Did we drive the right messages? Are we going about it the right way? Where do we need to improve? What do we need to change? Department leadership weighs countless questions, and then must make tough decisions based on the year’s new business plan. We are only given limited dollars to make it all work. How do we spend our money? What is the best way to maximize what we’ve been given so that we get the job done in 2016? Every aspect of the budget must be determined from padlocks to payroll, and often tough choices will follow.
In very simple terms, this is the role of our company “decision makers.” Such decisions are made throughout the course of the year based on the needs of the company and the resources of the department. But what exactly is a “decision maker?” Is this a role, or a responsibility? Is it both?
What’s involved in Making a Quality Decision?
Decision making is a process. While knowledge and experience provide the basis for sound decisions, it also involves more than the use of our intellectual abilities. Vision, intuition, perception, values, and judgment all play an important role, and are indispensable to the decision-making process. No technique can replace these unique characteristics of leadership, but there are certain qualities that are common to good decision making:
- Purposeful: What was the purpose of the decision in the first place? There needs to be a specific reason for making a decision. When we are choosing between different alternatives, our goal is to make the best possible choice. When decisions are made to solve problems, we are intending to address and resolve a root cause.The aim of decision making is to determine the best possible course of action. This is a rational and intentional activity designed to attain well-defined objectives. For important decisions, with a large impact on people, we want to know that careful thought was used to make the decision.
- Relevant: The decision that we are making should support the overall mission and goals of the organization and the department. The basis of the decision should be fair, appropriate, driven by our underlying values, and pertinent to our objectives and our culture. We should then choose a course of action that aligns with our most important values.
- Comprehensive: We should ensure that we adequately explored alternatives, and evaluated those alternatives with an open mind. Our options should be reviewed and reasonable care taken to consider the various factors influencing the choice. Similarly, we should not make a choice and then use the decision process to rationalize or legitimize our selection. That is not sound decision making.
- Prudent: Are we managing the decision-making process based upon the magnitude and importance of the decision? How do we measure cost versus value? Did we weigh the features and merits we view as important in addition to the costs of implementation? For really important decisions with a large impact, are we taking the time and effort to analyze the decision? Are we over-analyzing smaller problems and decisions? Should we delegate the decision?
- Informed: Do we have all of the information necessary to make the best decision? Others are often able to provide additional knowledge, experience, and expertise that will enhance the quality and credibility of the decision. To what extent did we consider the views of those affected by the decision, and/or those who are responsible for executing the decision? While it doesn’t necessarily take a team to vote on a decision, it makes sense to have a team participate in the decision-making process to determine the best possible solution.
- Confident: Once made, we then must show confidence in our decision. Our comments, behavior, and course of action should support the decision and provide a sense of commitment and direction that encourages others to follow suit. That message helps drive the decision and focus the team.
The Role of the Loss Prevention Team
Decisions are made every day and at every level of the organization. However, no quality decision that can potentially impact our programs, our department, or our company is made in a bubble. Many factors ultimately influence the process. Fundamentally the primary goal of any decision is to lead to the desired result. This requires that we:
• Understand what our goals are,
• Have a basic comprehension as to how we want to get there,
• Successfully communicate our objectives to those who will carry out our plan,
• Recognize the potential obstacles that might stand in the way,
• Identify how our decision may or may not impact others, and
• Consider how all of these factors will impact the result.
It is difficult to achieve any degree of integrity in the decision-making process by ourselves. Reflection and careful consideration benefit from different perspectives. As a result, our most challenging and important choices become more grounded and complete when we engage others. Even when we can or must make a decision alone, our actions reach beyond us. There will always be any number of influences that will impact our decision making.
This is where our collective voice can become critically important. Communicating our thoughts, ideas, questions, comments, opinions, accolades, and concerns in a positive and constructive manner are essential for our loss prevention leaders to make the best possible decisions. This is in no way to imply that anyone should have free reign to openly complain about a decision that they may not like. Counterproductive comments only serve to fuel further issues and discontent. Rather, there are numerous means and opportunities to ask questions and provide constructive feedback at every level of the organization.
First and foremost, it is the role of the loss prevention team to carry out the decisions and objectives of the organization and its leadership. Each of us has a responsibility to respect the mission of the department and the goals of the program. It’s our job to do everything that we can to make it work. Any member of the team who fails to appreciate those core values lacks credibility and, frankly, has no right to offer their opinions. If you truly believe that the best decisions are informed decisions, then it must be clearly understood that you will not always have all of the information necessary to fully understand how or why many of these decisions were made in the first place. Always keep that in mind.
Valued feedback is rational and objective. It is offered with maturity and professionalism. It recognizes the message and intent of the original decision. It is informative rather than judgmental; practical instead of philosophical. We should be able to support our feedback with facts. We should be able to explore alternatives when possible and offer solutions when appropriate.
We’ve all heard that a team is much more than simply the sum of its parts. Our collective efforts are what make us successful. But the value of the individual members of the loss prevention team cannot be overstated. Each of us has a legitimate opportunity to influence change and make a difference. It’s then up to us to recognize the opportunities and seize the moment.