For my money, one of the biggest challenges to working in a large company comes down to getting people to make decisions on a timely basis. While large organizations were originally formed to create greater efficiency, today most large bureaucracies exist to sustain themselves and to moderate decisions and their impacts.
One of my favorite stories about the founding of the US government comes from a discussion between Jefferson (personal favorite) and Washington. Jefferson was unhappy with the thought of two houses of Congress - he favored just one, directly elected House, while others supported a house and senate. The story goes that Washington compared the Senate to Jefferson's cooling of his tea by pouring small amounts into a saucer. The Senate, he claimed, was the saucer that cooled the "hot" legislation from the House. In other words, the Senate is meant to be the brake on rapid decision making and legislation. Often, the organization and bureaucracy in your company acts the same way - but in the case of the Senate, the braking is intentional.
I've devised a handy statistical gathering chart which can help you decide if the slowing of the decision making is helping, or hurting your organization. It seems to me that firms can act on and take decisions quickly if they need to, but will only do so under duress. However, many decisions that are delayed often appear in hindsight to have been either incorrect (so the slow march was helpful) or overly delayed (so the slow march was hurtful.
All you need to do is record the first opportunity to make a decision about a new product, service or action, and the ultimate outcome, using the criteria below. Then you can begin to get a sense of whether or not your organization's decision making process (and speed) are strategically logical and helpful or hurtful. Most firms are conservative and believe that delayed decisions that sacrifice a little upside are much better than speedy decisions that might result in error. Anyway, simply categorize all the decisions that you are part of into one of these five types, and you can begin to see if there is a risk not only to taking decisions too quickly, but also to delaying them too long.
Saw the opportunity, Took the decision immediately, first mover advantage
Saw the opportunity, took the decision immediately, opportunity did not open as expected
Saw the opportunity, delayed the decision, still early in the market
Saw the opportunity, delayed the decision - missed the market or weren't the leader
Saw the opportunity, delayed the decision - opportunity did not open as expected
Note that early decision making is akin to another activity typically considered risky - the forward pass in football. "Three things can happen when you throw the football and two of them are bad (incomplete, interception)." However, over time football teams found ways to mitigate these risks and now throw about as often as they run. Have businesses found ways to speed up risky decisions and mitigate the risks?