Why You Need an Organizational Decision Making Process
How many decisions have you already made today? Within a business, we make countless decisions every day, each of which plays a role in impacting personal, team, and organizational successes as well as failures. Our decisions can be influenced by a myriad of factors: bias, intuition, rationale, historical precedence, and resource pressures (e.g., time and money) to name a few. Some decisions are easy to make – those typically with high amounts of information and low amounts of risk (think routine decisions). Other decisions are more difficult because the risks are higher, and the visibility of the future is lower (think strategic decisions).
As with all challenging demands, making the right decision requires our best judgment call. While every decision is unique, most have numerous interrelated, complex components that are constantly moving, and therefore difficult to follow. Paul Rogers and Marcia Blenko said it best in the Harvard business review, “decisions routinely get stuck inside the organization like loose change.”1 And with the fast paced technology that exists today, companies have to answer to propositions faster than ever.2 As an Organization, you must be prepared to seize all opportunities that come your way, therefore you must equip your team with a decision making process. Ask yourself, what deliberate or systematic steps does your organization, regardless of size, take to make the best choice in a timely manner?
Not working through a procedure in a deliberate manner when making decisions may cause you to miss critical elements such as appropriate alternatives or moving pieces, which heavily influences the long-term outcome. Decision-making involves problem solving to generate a better understanding of the root cause and consider all relevant and influential data. The next time you are faced with a tough problem, walk yourself through the following sequence outlined below, which spells “I DECIDE.”
- I - Identify the problem
- D - Determine root causes
- E - Evaluate options
- C - Conceptualize and Commit
- I - Implementation plan
- D - Distribute the plan
- E - Execute the decision
I: Identify the problem
Decision making occurs as a reaction to a perceived problem. What is the issue at hand you have observed that has deviated from or disrupted the normal flow of work? Clarify and spell out your understanding of the problem in a simple statement at this stage - without delving into why, when, who, what, or how.
D: Determine root causes
Now the detective work begins, and you may ask those more probing questions that enable you to get beyond your symptoms. If only symptoms are addressed and the root-cause is neglected, the decision-making process will ultimately be activated yet again due to improper handling and further clog the decision-making pipeline. Often, through completing exercises such as fishbone diagrams, the initial problem you identified may not be the first area that should be addressed. Contemplate how you or others have contributed to the proposed need for change or decisions, and the most effective response methods.
E: Evaluate options
Brainstorming time. List out all of the potential options that you believe are feasible to pursue. Collect measurable, observable, and specific evidence for each option. Consider making a balance sheet that can help you weigh the pros and cons through the input of other employees and stakeholders. Rather than just asking for everyone's opinions (their choice), ask for their reasoning behind their choice (what is good and what is bad about each solution). By assembling everyone’s insights rather than their conclusions, the discussion can focus on the biases and assumptions that lead to the opinions. This process can allow you to truly weigh and place value on your options.
C: Conceptualize and Commit
Before taking any action, consider your stakeholders: those who will be affected by the decision, especially if they are the ones who make it happen. Better coordination and quicker response times are all dependent on the “who’s”: who constructs potential paths, who needs to agree, who needs input, who has responsibility for the final say, and who is accountable for follow through.”1
A great tool for thinking through those stakeholder dependencies are concept maps. Conceptualizing the relationships and potential avenues of action in graphic form can help you accurately depict the ripple effect of a decision on departments, your employees, and your customers. Through concept maps, you are linking together the causes, requirements, and contributions of that decision. Each linkage should also include feasibility, risks and implications1 where applicable. Once you and your team have exhausted the potential routes your options may take you, and it is time to make a final judgment. Use the evidence you have collected, get consensus, and commit to that solution.
I: Implementation plan
Once you have evaluated your options and committed to a solution, it is time to design and develop the processes that will layout your plan for resolving this problem. What steps are necessary to implement the needed changes for success? How will you measure and report on progress towards goals, provide the tools, and resources required for these changes? If this is a significant decision that affects multiple layers of the organization, what are the best methods to facilitate such change and handle resistance to such changes? What types of countermeasures are in place should things not go as planned? These are the tough questions that come along with your plan and must be carefully constructed.
D: Distribute the plan
Ensure that the details of your plan are communicated to all of the appropriate personnel that will be affected by the decision. Get their buy in on why this decision is important, make certain employees/stakeholders know what they are responsible for, what to expect, how their roles or routines may be impacted, and when the decision will be executed. Getting employees/stakeholders to understand and support the decision and know the plan inside and out provides a degree of competence and autonomy so members can see it through. It additionally makes the execution more likely to succeed when everyone is on board.
E: Execute the decision
You have dissected the issue, worked through your options, made a decision (along with backups), and shared that decision. It is time to follow through – you are ready.
Obviously the more your organization continues to grow, and your decision-making model grows with it, be thoughtful of the methods used to get there. Have a decision diagnostic process to reflect on the last three meaningful decisions you have had to make or been actively involved in. Ask yourself, if the decisions were the best option and made at a reasonable speed. If so, how was that done and how was it executed, especially if it was successful. Consider if the right stakeholders were involved and if they were involved in the appropriate way (See last weeks blog about how salesforce can help with this).
Ultimately, do not leave your organization’s decision-making procedure to chance. Set the tone and methodology so you can continue to reinforce consistency and effectiveness within your organization.
If you would like to know more about how to implement a systematic approach to decision making, feel free to reach out to HigherEchelon directly for more specific ideas.
- “Who Has the D?: How Clear Decision Roles Enhance Organizational Performance”, available Harvard Business Review, Paul Rogers and Marcia W. Blenko, January 2006, https://hbr.org/2006/01/who-has-the-d-how-clear-decision-roles-enhance-organizational-performance
- “Making Better Business Decisions”, available Ground Floor Partners, Andrew Clarke, https://groundfloorpartners.com/making-better-decisions/