Decisions, decisions

Your manager invites you to a meeting...

Which of the following 3 invitations is most useful?

Meeting invite 1

"We are meeting later today to discuss issue X.  I need to make a decision on the issue this week because if I don't, Y will happen.  I would like you all to bring all the information you can think of that might inform how I make this decision and suggest any potential solutions.  I will listen to you all and may need some time to reflect on what we will do so a decision may or may not be reached today.  It will be my decision because I will be held accountable for it so we will not be putting it to a vote. If you have a strong view on what we should do, I want you to be totally honest about your opinion and give me reasons why even if you think I won't agree with you."

Meeting invite 2

"We are meeting later today to discuss issue X.  What we choose to do on this will have long term consequences for the business so I'd like to make sure I understand the detail.  I will give my opinion if I have one but it will be up to you to decide on the best course of action having first fully understood all the main implications.  Let's spend some time making sure we all understand the problem first and we may need to reframe it based on what we discuss.  That might be all we achieve today.  If we do, that's OK, we have time"

Meeting invite 3

"We're meeting later today to make a decision on issue X"

Meeting invite 3 is a very common approach.  Set the meeting, set the attendees, set a topic.  It's very rare to describe the expectations seen in 1 and 2.

The advantage of the first two approaches, of course, is that it sets expectations of the attendees.  They also determine who and how a decision is going to be made.

If being this explicit in the meeting invite is not something you can see yourself doing, you can still set expectations, either in a pre-meeting email or at the start of the meeting.

It's about setting the rules of engagement.  If everyone plays the game using the same rules, the game is played better.

Simply put; communicate upfront how the decision will be made.


[ dih-sizh-uhn ]

noun: the act or process of deciding; determination, as of a question or doubt, by making a judgment:

Make it clear the type of decision being made

How a decision is to be made is not usually discussed or made clear.  Being clear can help everyone participate in a positive way.

Here are 6 types of decision types to consider...

1. Do nothing

Sometimes by doing nothing a decision gets made for you.   It's not really a decision but it's what happens if you don't make one.  Doing this gives up power to fate and so is not really decision making at all.

2. Democratic

Also known as majority rule.  Every person in the process has an equal say and the majority position secures the decision. Although common in government it has two main disadvantages... i) Without full support, those who didn't agree with the majority may do something unhelpful afterwards ii) There's a risk of creating "us" versus "them" groups which spill over into the culture.

3. Executive

The leader makes the decision.  This type of decision making is common in business and rightly so; the leader is held accountable for the decisions being made.  However, if the leader is making the decision, they have to make sure that they receive the best advice and information, making sure that their team(s) feel confident and trusted to share what's needed.  If overused, executive decision making can stop more junior team members from acting with courage because they always refer to the leader to make a decision, thinking that's what is expected.  Leaders can delegate their decisions and should do so where appropriate.

4. Expert

Sometimes leaders defer to the expert and ask the expert (or small group of experts) to make a decision for them.   This can be appropriate where it's a specialist area of knowledge.  The leader should make sure that the experts explain their decision-making process and options.

5. Consensus

This is where everyone agrees to support the decision even if they do not personally agree with it.  Despite their different perspectives, all agree they can deliver the decision. It takes time though.  If you have the time, this method will serve you and the team well; each person is listened to and given proper consideration.  That said, it's less useful in a crisis when a more directive executive order might be needed to act quickly.

6. Unanimous

Everyone agrees.  A great outcome of course but not always possible.  Ask if the decision really needs to be unanimous because if it is (or isn't), it's worth being super clear.  Unanimous of course is very different to consensus because in a consensus decision everyone agrees to follow the decision whereas in a unanimous decision, everyone actually needs to agree with the decision itself.

If it's not clear...

Sometimes you need to discuss the issue to identify the type of decision that then needs to be made.  This is an exploratory discussion leading to clarity on how the decision needs to be made.  If this is the case, it may well be worth simply calling this out.

(Or - just follow the process)

Sometimes decisions can be made following a pre-agreed process.  This is useful where there are predictable events that require a response. Every company has written (or unwritten) policies and procedures that simplify decision making.  Sometimes the decision can just be made by following the policy.  Remember to examine on a regular basis if the policy/process is fit for purpose.

Be explicit

Decision making is ultimately about having good information and making good judgements in alignment with a clear cause/purpose.

Being explicit on the type of decision being made is an important factor in making good decisions and ensuring that they are then agreed upon and carried through.

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