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Essential Questions for Effective Decisions

What decision making process do you follow? When the process is completed and the decision is made, how does it get communicated and implemented? There are so many important facets to effective decision making.
Decision making is a culture flashpoint in M&A integration and is usually a sticking point in organizations. There are lots of great resources and insights on decision making. Amazon shows over 50,000 books on the topic!
Rather than tell you how to make decisions, this week’s tip is focused on some questions that will improve the effectiveness of your decision making.

  1. What is the problem or issue this decision is solving for? It’s fascinating how many times discussions devolve into arguments over solutions that solve for different problems. Before a conversation can focus on solutions it’s essential that everyone is clear on the situation, the cause, the impacts and all the details that create common understanding of what needs solving. For example, if I am trying to decide what car to buy and you are solving for the ideal method of transportation to work, then we could come up with radically different solutions and not be able to agree because we are focusing on different problems!
  2. What criteria am I using to evaluate the options? To make a more objective decision, establishing criteria before discussing solutions is invaluable. What is most important? Does a solution need to be profitable or can it be break-even? What is a “must have” and what is a “nice to have?”
  3. What if we did nothing at all, what would happen? We have a bias toward action. Sometimes doing nothing is a perfectly acceptable solution. Consider the resources, time and effort reserved by not moving forward. When evaluating solution options, always add the “do nothing” option and consider the impact. Perhaps the best solution is “not now, let’s revisit” at a specific point in the future.
  4. Who can decide this? Who needs to be involved? A great frustration we hear is that the right people weren’t involved in a decision-making conversation to provide their input. This is especially true when organizations are operating in silos. That frustration is equally matched with the frustration of not being clear on decision authority. Before a decision is made, pause and ask who has the authority to make this decision AND who needs to give input. If you are a leader, make it your responsibility to clearly explain whether the decision in question will be made by the group as a decision by consensus, or if you are gathering input for a decision that you will make.
  5. If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to? There are two perspectives this question raises. The first reminds us that it’s a good practice to end as well as to begin. When a decision to move forward with something is made, consider whether something else needs to be eliminated. The second perspective is opportunity cost. If you are investing money in one initiative or focusing time on a particular project, what are you unable to invest in or focus on as a result of that?

Use these questions to increase your decision-making effectiveness. And always remember that there is a difference between problems and decisions. Check out this blog post to prevent solving decisions and deciding problems!

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