I was meeting with a young mid-level manager when he shared his desire to teach problem solving to his key supervisors. Over time, he had realized many of the phone calls he was getting were from front line supervisors about problems they were having. As he explained, “I realized we were really dealing with issues related to decision-making on a daily basis. While I have helped them to learn the difference between technical and adaptive problems, many of the callers have framed up the problem before them as neither technical nor adaptive. For them, this is a crisis. What do I do?”
One of the first things we need to remember is that people, strategy and crises are the three most important areas that leaders make decisions. And when we as leaders make the right decisions, they will yield good outcomes. However, the big question for many leaders right now is this: What are the good outcomes or results we are seeking?
First, a lack of clarity around the desired outcomes or results is part of the current challenges we are facing. When we expect leaders to be competent in driving results through others, we also expect them to be able to articulate the desired results, and why these are the desired results.
Second, we as leaders at times forget that effective decision-making includes a “redo loop.” This typically happens when we discover that we can not, or did not mobilize and align key stakeholders. If this happens, then we need to go back and reset the context, i.e. the why, for change.
Third, we need to remember that there are four stages to decision-making, namely preparation, the actual decision, execution and evaluation. Leaders who improve their decision-making and the decision-making of others do this by improving the preparation stage. Here, the best leaders help all involved focus on the salient factors. Kevin Cashman in his book, Leadership From The Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life, Berrett-Koehler, 2008 calls it the CIA Model of decision-making. He suggests we focus on the following three things:
- What can we control?
- What can we influence?
- What must we accept?
By having a framework to prepare to make a decision, we empower all involved to think through the decision rather than simply react to the situation before them This, in essence, gives them a decision architecture for today and in the future.
This week, review with your direct reports the decision architecture for your office or organization. This will be a powerful first step in helping people improve their decision making.