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A SMART PROCESS FOR MAKING IRREVERSIBLE DECISIONS
MAKING ORDER OUT OF CHAOS
How We Deliver This Service
Our approach to making critical decisions balances the need to be swift with the need to be thoughtful. We do not get into paralysis by analysis. Every phase has a defined time period and end point. Our process involves the following phases:
- What is the decision?
- How will you make the decision?
- Are you already making decisions?
- Do you need to make a decision?
- Why do you need to make a decision?
- Who needs to be involved in making the decision?
- What are the short-term outcomes you absolutely must realize from this decision?
- What are the long-term outcomes that you hope to realize from this decision?
- What input points do you need to make a decision?
- What do the input points tell you?
- What are the available options?
- Based on what you can see today, what are the upsides and downsides of each option?
- What are the gut responses of people on the decision committee?
- What is your decision?
What Is The Decision?
In this phase, we help you frame up the decision, at a high level. We interview you and your executive team to come to understand the nature of the decision that you believe needs to be made. Out of this, we produce a statement that describes the decision. This brings clarity and can also unify team members who often operate from differing assumptions about the very nature of the question itself.
How Will You Make The Decision?
In this phase, we come to understand how you make decisions and who will have decision rights. Different service firms handle this in different ways. Our recommendation is that the bigger the decision, the more input points you should consider so you get the best ideas on the table. But decision rights and input points are not the same. Some service firms will make decisions based on a democratic vote from the decision committee. Others will make decisions by votes from partners. Still others will have a single decision maker. Out of this, we produce a statement of how you will make the decision.
Are You Already Making Decisions?
In this phase, we identify decisions you’ve already made and how they’ve influenced where you are today. Most service firms do not see that the decision in front of them today is the natural progression of decisions they have been making all along. This is a common blind-spot. We ask questions about the history of critical decisions you have made and come to understand how and why those decisions were made and their outcomes. In certain situations, we can present a mind-map for prior decisions and a historical timeline of choices you have made that caused you to come into your current situation. This can be very insightful about how to chart a better course to your desired future.
Do You Need To Make A Decision?
The first decision that needs to be made is whether or not to make a decision. Homeostasis, doing nothing at all, is usually the best option. In our experience, most service firms are better off staying their current course. In this phase, we ask you to examine the option of doing nothing. If you feel this is not an option, we move to the next phase.
Why Do You Need To Make A Decision?
In this phase, we ask you to identify the core reasons you must make a decision. Since most decisions are a response to an opportunity or a challenge, we help you get clarity around your core motives and why you believe this moment in time cannot be passed without a response. Out of this, we produce a statement that describes your motives and reasoning in clear terms.
Who Needs To Be Involved In Making The Decision?
In this phase, we ask you to identify the stakeholders and influencers who need to be on a decision committee. We pay careful attention to the balance of interpersonal chemistry, longevity with the firm, ownership equity, functional responsibility, core expertise and other factors. Out of this, we produce a decision committee and define the workload of the committee. Usually this includes a specific list of tasks, responsibilities and a timeline of milestones. Critical decision-making is a team sport.
What Short-Term Outcomes Must You Realize From This Decision?
In this phase, we help you identify the short-term outcomes you must realize within 12-24 months that are an indicator that you made the right decision. This is usually accomplished with input from the decision committee. Out of this, we produce a clear list of outcomes that will guide the rest of the process and will serve as a barometer of success down the road.
What Long-Term Outcomes Must You Realize From This Decision?
In this phase, we help you identify the long-term outcomes you hope to realize within 3-5 years of your decision. These are often statements of market position. Out of this, we produce a list of long-term outcomes that will influence the decision.
What Input Points Do You Need To Make A Decision?
In this phase, we help you identify the input points that should inform the decision. Depending on the nature of the decision, input points vary widely. Input points are usually either qualitative or quantitative in nature. Common quantitative input points include financial statements, market trend analyses, market share analyses and overall market size. Common qualitative input points include the goals of stakeholders, judgement calls from people on the decision committee and even heard-on-the-street intelligence. Out of this, we produce a list of the input points that should be factored in to the decision.
What Do The Input Points Tell You?
In this phase, we ask you to gather input sources and then we help you analyze and make sense of them. This is a crucial phase because input points often seem to relay contradictory insights. There is no substitute for an experience analyst and critical thinker in this phase. Some input points tell you nothing at all while others give you vital insights. Separating the noise from the news is crucial. Out of this analysis, we help you produce a list of the top insights that are pertinent to your decision.
What Are The Available Options?
In this phase, we help you identify the options for your decision. This is where we add a lot of value. Most people operate with some level of blind-spots that can lead to myopia. We help you expand the number of options that are available to you by considering the input points from several different angles. Out of this, we produce a list of options that are available to you.
What Are The Upsides And Downsides Of Each Option?
In this phase, we help you analyze the upside and downside of each option. We usually do this at an off-site brainstorming session with your decision committee team. We list each option on a white board and then ask the question – what are the upsides and downsides of going with this option? Depending on the strategic importance of the decision, sometimes the big decision is made right in that moment. Other times, leaders prefer to sit with the analyses for a few days to ensure they didn’t miss anything. Out of this brainstorming session, we produce a document that shows you the upsides and downsides of all options.
What Are The Gut Responses Of People On The Decision Committee?
In this phase, we ask for final input from everyone on the decision committee. This is the chance for everyone to speak their mind one last time before a decision is made. Out of this, we document the statements of each person on the decision committee.
What Is Your Decision?
In this phase, we help you enact your decision process, if you so desire. Some decisions are made by vote in closed sessions. Other decisions are made by vote of the decision committee. Still others are made by a single person after deliberation and consideration of all input points.
A focused methodology, like the one describe here, greatly increases the likelihood that you will have considered every important angle and will sleep well at night, knowing you made the best decision possible.