Workshops and lectures about decision making center around tools, data and processes. The thinking goes that to make the best decisions, the best data must be available and properly used. And since we often have lots of data, we need tools for parsing, analyzing, understanding and displaying that data.
These tools and approaches are important and can bring significant clarity to the decisions that must be made on big projects and complex problems. The challenge with this training and mindset is that we think problem solving and decision making are all about the right approach, the right tool and enough data.
In a research setting or laboratory, that might be correct.
But that likely isn’t the environment you work in. You work in the real world – a messy place filled with exceptions, complications and people. Unfortunately for the proponents and purveyors of the complex decision-making tools, this messiness means that while the tools and approaches are important and useful, they fall short of giving us exactly what we need.
When we are making decisions in the real-world organizations, there are two factors that the models and tools don’t take into account:
- The relative urgency of the decision – how fast must it be made.
- The importance of engagement – how important is it that people agree with, support and will implement the decision.
And without weighing these two factors into your decision-making process you won’t make the best decisions.
The urgency or speed hints at the relative need for the deeply-involved tools from the start. The weighing factor here is – how soon is this decision required? When the urgency level is high and we need to get on with it, the complex tools at our disposal are superfluous. This might seem to be an obvious statement, yet it needs to be said, because at times the process gets in the way of the decision.
The relative importance of buy-in and agreement of others is the other factor to weigh. If the decision needs to be made quickly, engaging others for their ideas or data might take too long; yet when we ask people for input or involve them in the decision-making process, we get more ownership and buy-in.
Organizational decision making is about more than the processes and data (as important as they are), it is also about the speed with which the decision must be made and how important it is that people are ready to comply, act and implement that decision.
The messiness comes, in part, because speed and buy-in are competing factors. We can raise buy-in with time spent, and buy-in may suffer when speed is of the essence.
Which leaves us with this question . . .
How can we build buy-in without increasing the time required?
This is a great question, leading us to the “big key” promised in the title.
There is a key to organizational decision making, that can allow speed and buy-in to grow independently or even at the same time. It isn’t about the data or the facts, the process we’ve used or the ROI.
If you want decisions that are more completely and effectively implemented in your organization, in less time, build organizational trust.
Do your team members trust you and your judgment?
Do you trust them and their experience and wisdom?
Know that when the answers to these questions are emphatically yes, the decisions you make can be made faster and with greater agreement, regardless of the approach taken to get there.
Tools, approaches and processes are important, and the more of those you have in your toolkit, the more effective you will be at solving problems and making decisions . . . and . . . time spent granting, building and gaining trust will pay greater dividends than you might have thought before you read this article.
Here’s to better decisions, more effectively implemented.