Standard Work Leadership is often based on the concept that when there is no standard, there is no Kaizen. But, the benefits of Standard Work does more than that – having standard work can also help us make better decisions, especially when the decision that needs to be made is especially important.
Moreover, Standard Work can help us improve the Customer Experience by not bombarding the customer with too many options and asking them to make decisions that are ultimately non-value add and trivial.
Ultimately, decision making stems from the same mental resource and, when that resource is depleted, our subsequent decisions are of lower quality.
In what follows, I want to draw on a study from Dr. Kathleen Vohs at The University of Minnesota. She and her colleagues are at the forefront of an interesting field in the area of decision making. I want to apply their findings to how decision making can impact the customer experience.
Dr. Vohs and team have coined the phrase “Decision Fatigue”, which is where the brain has reached a state of fatigue and where subsequent decisions have less thought and diligence and, ultimately have less concern from the decision maker. One way to think of this is with the following example (my example, not Dr. Vohs’):
Imagine that you are to make 100 decisions about a number of items, one after another. Likely, at decision number 50 or so, you care less and less about the decision itself or even its consequences. This is decision fatigue.
In the words of the researchers 1:
The present findings suggest that self-regulation, active initiative, and effortful choosing draw on the same psychological resource. Making decisions depletes that resource, thereby weakening the subsequent capacity for self-control and active initiative.
The impairment of self-control was shown on a variety of tasks, including physical stamina and pain tolerance, persistence in the face of failure, and quality and quantity of numerical calculations.
It also led to greater passivity. Decision making and self-control are both prominent aspects of the self’s executive function. It is therefore useful to recognize that they draw on a common psychological resource and that one may affect the other. In particular, making many decisions leaves the person in a depleted state and hence less likely to exert self-control effectively. The common resource needed for self-control, active initiative, and effortful decision taking may deserve recognition as an important aspect of self and personality
To put it in more common language, the answer is simple and really common-sense: when we don’t need to exercise our decision making faculties on things that matter less, our ability is greater for when we have to make decisions on things that matter much more.
Decision Fatigue Harms the Customer
Decision Fatigue matters to the customer. Whether in our service design or in our product design, wherever there is a customer touchpoint that requires a decision to be made from the customer, we have to be mindful that the customer may not be in a state of mind where they are open, qualified, or even care to make a decision.
Have you ever been in a situation where, as a customer, you have been overwhelmed by the number of options placed before you? Yeah, me too. That’s decision fatigue and it is terrible for the Customer Experience.
Barack Obama Makes Few Decisions
Barack Obama teaches us this principle in his description of his daily routine 2:
This time he covered a lot more ground and was willing to talk about the mundane details of presidential existence.
“You have to exercise,” he said, for instance. “Or at some point you’ll just break down.” You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting.
“You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”
- Decision making – no matter the type of importance of the decision that needs to be made – stems from the same brain faculties.
- When decisions are made, it depletes energy from that same resource.
- Over time and frequency, consequent decisions are likely of a lower quality than previous decisions.
- Decision Fatigue, as it relates to the decisions we ask our customers to make, impairs their ability and can negatively impact the customer experience.
Making too many decisions about mundane details is a waste of a limited resource: your mental energy.