If it determines the decision, what is required?
8-Step Leadership Decision-Making Process for Making the Best Decisions
A simple majority? A two-thirds vote? Is anyone given veto power? Team decision-making meetings are much easier when, at the start, everyone is crystal clear on how they will end.
The Decision Making Process | Organizational Behavior / Human Relations
The tension in the room was rising. The group had been at it for hours. They reviewed the pros and cons of both options yet again. Each side paraded their own experts, data, and recommendations. And yet they remained at an impasse. Our business evolves pretty quickly, so we don't use a decision matrix per se.
Instead, we use a combination of clear roles and responsibilities, so everyone knows what part of the business they're responsible for, and the Cynefin domains to help us recognize when a decision warrants a more thoughtful approach. If you're familiar with the Cynefin framework, you may spot a simplified version of it lurking in the picture with the boat above. If it's new to you, check out this short video from Jennifer Garvey Berger, author of the excellent short book Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps. If we're facing a complex decision where there's just no way to know what the "right" choice might be we need to find at least three viable options and talk it through in a meeting before we commit.
Ideally, we try to choose an approach that starts with several small experiments to test out the decision, because we really can't say in advance how it will all play out.
Or, let's keep it simple. Have you ever worked with your team to decide where you should go for lunch? If you've ever chosen between multiple viable options, you've used decision-making criteria to make that choice.
When deciding where to go for lunch, you're picking somewhere nearby, somewhere not too expensive, somewhere fast, and a place serving food everyone in your group will eat. At my office, that narrows it down to about 20 places hurrah, Portland! Once we're narrowed down to 20 or so dining options, we get into secondary criteria. Do we know the owners? Have we been there too often recently? How's the ambiance, and the service?
Finally, or first what sounds good right now? We know how to establish and evaluate criteria for lots of decisions like this. We're not always very good at it, but that's human bias and emotion for you. Can't trust it to make optimal decisions, and you can't make any decisions without it. But how do you select standard criteria for your organization? Our little lunch example already includes eight criteria, and it's not a big decision! When you think of all the possible criteria you could analyze for those big ones, it quickly gets out of control.
Let's consider for a moment the RFP example - a process that seems like a good way for organizations to be responsible with their money. So, to move things along, everyone involved learns how to "work the system" - thereby defeating the purpose for the system in the first place. Most frameworks include some predefined criteria and some process steps that help a group work through those. Need examples? You can browse several frameworks in these articles.
But be forewarned; there is a mega-internet-level rabbit hole lurking behind each one, so block out some time and get ready to explore the wonderland. I've been down the rabbit hole, and I can tell you that it's full of cake and potions that never get it quite exactly right.
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Every framework works way better than winging it, but every one also struggles to find the right balance between irresponsible brevity too short! After reviewing these frameworks and the techniques researchers found most likely to improve decision-making quality, we decided to outline our own standard criteria. We settled on this set because they're flexible, giving you room to scale up or down the amount of detail we bring into the decision, and they work well when evaluating the options for all kinds of very different decisions.
Here's how it works. Once you've identified at least three viable options, answer these questions for each one. What are the facts? We leave this section intentionally generic, so that the people making the decision can choose the facts that best support the decision at hand.
You'll see how this plays out further on. It also highlights individual biases, as the facts each person chooses helps you understand how they perceive that option and the decision. By the way, these individual differences are a very good thing. There are always more facts than any one of us can care about, so getting everyone's version of the "facts" on the table means you get to benefit by learning from all those unique perspectives. We have a natural tendency to be optimistic about things we want, and to rationalize i. Forecasting the literal steps it would take to make something work helps bring in some realism.
Do you have the time and resources to pull this off? If the option you're considering relies on one of those "a miracle occurs" steps, that's good to know in advance. Forecasting how a plan could fail helps point out obvious risks. It also helps you make a better plan if you choose this option, because you can work to avoid those failures up front.
Here, we include these two questions as part of our decision-making criteria. They're so powerful we also use them as steps in our standard Project Kickoff Meeting. Research shows that we make decisions using emotion. Picking 3 options, then outlining facts and forecasting helps bring some logic to the decision. The experience questions now deliberately tap into the intuitive wisdom locked in our emotional centers by helping us get clearer about our vision. We also practice envisioning success because it can clarify the underlying reasons why we might be drawn to one option over another.
It helps us find the deeper "Why? For example, if you envision the successful outcome of buying a bigger car is that you'll go on and experience more comfortable trips, you might realize that going on trips is what you really want; not the car. Then, you can consider other ways you might go on trips which is what you really want to celebrate , opening up options that may cost less and save you space in the driveway.
On the other hand, the question about what it would be like to experience failure helps make the consequences of a bad decision personal; if this goes bad, what happens to me? For some groups, these questions never come up otherwise. Dealing with the ethics question separately makes sure it gets addressed and helps put it in balance with the other decision making criteria. We picked up this tip from the team at Cloverpop. They provide research-backed software and services designed to improve a team's decision-making performance, which means they know a thing or two about how to support great decision making over time.
Erik Larson , Cloverpop's CEO, explained that it's not enough to simply write down what the decision was. A well-documented decision includes this information. The last two pieces, documenting the alternatives considered and who was involved, are critical for building trust and efficiency into the decision-making process. Because it turns out that people don't actually feel they need to be directly involved in every decision—that's exhausting!
If your team doesn't understand the process used to make a decision, they may mistrust those decisions—even when they yield a fabulous outcome. You need trust to get efficiency, because otherwise people waste time second-guessing every decision before they take action. Explaining the rationale behind a decision helps some, but a suspicious or frustrated person will assume that the decision makers are fabricating reasons that justify doing what they want. By sharing what else you considered and who else was involved, everyone can see that the decision wasn't arbitrary.
Listing the alternatives considered also resolves some of the questions that tend to come up much later, when someone wonders "Why are we doing this?
The Decision‐Making Process
Did they consider XYZ? Here's your first awesome benefit to using a decision log. This practice builds trust in the decision, because it makes the decision process more transparent. A second benefit: you'll make better decisions when you know you must document and share them. This works really well for a team like ours, where many decisions get made by one or two people.
Those people slow down and think a bit harder when they know they'll have to share what else they considered and who else they consulted. No one wants to look stupid or sloppy in front of their team, and this practice helps them prevent that. You can benefit even further by creating an opportunity for feedback. When someone sees a decision, they may realize that the decision makers missed a better alternative. With the information in front of them and a feedback process in place, they can speak up and save the day!
How to Make Decisions
Audits take time to examine a process and make sure it's performing according to the standards it's designed to support. In their article The Decision-Driven Organization , authors Blenko, Mankins, and Rogers suggest running a decision audit in preparation for a major reorganization. We find decision audits even more valuable when we run them as a regular business practice.
A decision audit reviews the real decisions you've made to determine whether the decisions you're making are good ones, and whether the process is working for you. At Lucid, we run our decision audits using a standard action review process. A quick reminder: Action Reviews are used to formalize learning and find ways to improve going forward.
When run regularly, a decision audit is NOT a quality-control process; it's part of the learning and improving process. If your organization is large and complex enough to warrant a quality-control process too, read this article by Daniel Kahneman, Dan Lovallo, and Olivier Sibony - three of the leading thinkers working on decision making today. Once the consumer has determined what will satisfy their want or need they will begin to begin to seek out the best deal. This may be based on price, quality, or other factors that are important for them.
Customers read many reviews and compare prices, ultimately choosing the one that satisfies most of their parameters.
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