Deciding How to Decide
Deciding How to Decide
What you need to do before you start the decision-making process
by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions
We make decisions every day; small ones, big ones, unusual ones, specific or general and those which have become a force of habit. We get so involved in the decision itself that we become blind to the key dimensions that surround it. So what are they, why are they important and how can we use them to help us make better and more effective decisions?
The Four Key Dimensions
There are four key dimensions which need to be considered when making a decision. This includes:
- Composition: Who should be involved in the decision-making process? You need to make sure you have the right people, with the right information, who can contribute and develop the necessary decision.
- Context: In what type of environment does the decision take place? Is it an open environment that fosters open, constructive dialogue? Or a closed environment in which personal interests supersedes those of the group?
- Communication: What are the “means of dialogue” among the participants? Does it involve considerable direct discussion with those with relevant knowledge and expertise, or is it ‘filtered’ through reports from senior people in the hierarchy? Are there face-to-face meetings or is it via phone, email, reports etcetera?
- Control: How will the leader control the process and the content of the decision?
- Control of the Process – how do you want to shape the way that the deliberations are undertaken and followed;
- Control of the Content – how much do you want to control the outcome of the decision
This last factor- Control – is the hardest, and has the greatest impact on the decision.
A Balanced Approach
A balance between control of the process and control of the content is required. Too little or too much control of the process and/or the content will result in sub-optimal decisions. Some of the impacts of low or high levels of control on the process or content are shown below.
Impact of the Level of Control of Content & Process in Decision-Making
So how can we achieve a balance in controlling both the process and content of a decision? There are three steps:
3 Steps for a Balanced Approach
1. Be Clear on the Decision
Are you clear on what the decision is that you are making is? For example, you are looking at how to improve your retention of key customers. This is not a decision; this is a problem that needs to be solved. Be careful not to confuse decisions with problems.
2. Know What Objectives & Outcomes You Want to Achieve
Have a clear understanding of where you want to be as a result of the decision you have made. Knowing this will help you understand what expertise and information you need, from whom you need to get it, and the people who should be involved.
3. Have Checks & Counter-Balances
You will find that you and others involved in the decision-making process will fall into common decision-making traps or errors of judgement. Understanding them, and how to avoid them will provide you with the means to check your collective thoughts, ideas and insights and reduce the likelihood of your decision being subverted.
Use this as a checklist – make sure you address the four dimensions: Composition, Context, Communication and Control – and build the means for better decisions. Will you share this with your colleagues and those who participate in your decision-making processes?
It’s your decision.
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