"It does not take much strength to do things, but it
requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do" Elbert Hubbard
How do you make a decision? Researchers note that some of the biggest personal decisions we make – choice of partner and
house purchases – can be made in a matter of seconds, "you just know it is right". By contrast, making a business
decision can be an enterprise in stakeholder engagement, communications, politics, facilitation and more.
Launching into making the decision without pre decision making preparation can be fatal for the ultimate quality and
ownership of the decision reached. Below are ten tips, extracted from our Decision Making Workshop, on what good preparation
- Write a decision statement – so that everyone responsible for, or interested in the decision, can see exactly what the
decision to be made is really about. Keep this decision statement visible and referenced throughout the process, so that
ongoing focus and clarity is consciously managed.
- Identify who needs to be actively engaged in making the decision and who will be impacted by the decision made.
Overlook someone at your peril.
- Be explicit about the decision making process before you start. For example, will the decision be made through
consensus reaching, majority vote or will the experts/leader have the final say after taking inputs from others. Commitment
to a decision will be undermined if people enter the decision process under the mistaken belief about their level of
- Understand the decision context. A decision can rarely be made in isolation. What are the influences and constraints
that need to be taken into account? What about legislation, core values, time lines, budgets, expertise, other decisions
- Decision making criteria – a great way to manage group decisions is to gain agreement on the criteria against which
the options will be evaluated against. This can help to manage the emotions and politics that can suddenly surface when
the decision making process starts.
- Decision tools – use them if you believe that conversation alone will be hard to contain and structure. In the right
context tools, like Priorities Grid, give everyone a voice and rapidly surface information. If you are interested email
and I will send a couple of tools with worked examples.
- Capture 1) the facts you have at your disposal 2) the gaps in knowledge and 3) the assumptions being made. These 3
categories prevent people treating opinion as fact and letting untested assumptions remain untested!
- Focus on facts but listen to and acknowledge the emotions, these can give a powerful steer on the direction to take and
the impact of a decision.
- Bank your decisions – be explicit and formal when a decision has been made. Without formal confirmation you run the
risk of people feeling it is okay to try and undo and remake it, or are simply unclear if they can now act on it.
- Before planning to act on the decision reached explore the intended and possible unintended consequences of the
decision, both short and long term. This understanding can then be taken into account and possible consequences better
managed when the decision is acted on.