Nothing happens in business until someone makes a decision. These days, with the market moving at warp speeds, the timeliness of decision making is also critical. What might have been the right decision yesterday, may be the wrong decision tomorrow.
Yet one of the most common complaints I hear as an advisor to businesses is that the decision process is arbitrary or broken.
The challenge is that everyone, including the experts, seem to have a different view of the right decision process, and when it should be used.
To put this into perspective, I found a good summary of the different levels of delegation and enablement in a recent book, Effective People Management, by Pat Wellington, who is an experienced international executive and consultant. She suggests that the level of decision delegation should be commensurate with the experience and knowledge level of both the manager and the team involved in working the issue.
If the team is very experienced, you should delegate more and move up higher on the following numerical scale for optimum decision effectiveness and speed:
1. Decide and announce the decision.
Review options in terms of objectives, priorities, timescale, and then autocratically decide on an action and inform the team of the decision. This approach will likely de-motivate experienced teams, but may be required when time is of the essence.
I once worked for a startup CEO who used this approach, even when time to decide was not an issue. The result was a team that felt totally unappreciated, and productivity declined, to the point that our startup was no longer competitive.
2. Decide and then communicate to others.
Make the decision, and then explain the reasons and the positive benefits accruing to the team, the company, and customers.
The decision then becomes part of the team learning process, and the team’s confidence in you increases rather than decreases.
3. Present the decision and invite comments.
Present the decision along with the background.–and invite team members to ask questions and discuss the rationale. This more participative and engaging approach enables the team to appreciate the issues and implications of all options. This approach improves satisfaction.
4. “Suggest” a decision and invite discussion.
Discuss and review a provisional decision on the basis that you will evaluate their views before making the final decision. Thus, team members have some real influence over the final decision, and recognize a real contribution and appreciation of the team.
5. Present the situation for input and joint decision.
Present the options to the team. Team members are encouraged and expected to offer ideas and additional options, and discuss implications of various options. Being high-involvement and high-influence is highly motivating to every team.
6. Explain the situation and ask the team to decide.
Delegate responsibility for the decision to the team, perhaps with stated limits. You may or may not choose to be a part of the team that decides. This approach requires a mature team, and major responsibility acceptance by the team.
7. Ask the team to define the problem and also decide.
With this approach, team members identify and analyze the situation, develop resolution options, and then decide on a preferred course of action. You agree to support the decision and manage implementation. This puts the team at the strategic decision-making level.
In my experience, successful first-time entrepreneurs and startups often operate near the top of this list, while larger and more mature organizations that run effectively operate near the bottom. If I see the opposite, I often find a dysfunctional business, or at least one which may not be agile enough to compete in today’s marketplace.
What does this mean to you? You must pick your role and your company, based on your own motivations and expectations. It also means that you must be prepared to change and adapt as the organization evolves.
Are you at the right place in the right organization to be effective, satisfied, and motivated to make the decisions that need to be made?