Monday, February 20, 2006

7 Habits of Effective Decision Makers

As a decision-maker what are your most critical habits?

Yes, we all have habits that alter our effectiveness as decision-makers. But which of our habits will help us become more effective? Which habits are becoming necessary in a increasingly complex decision space? Here is a selection of 7 habits that you will find with the most effective decision-makers.

Seek Participation
The most effective decision-makers seek to involve stakeholders in their decisions. As a habit they ensure enough buy-in into decisions. They seek include, not exclude.

The principle of inclusion seeks to carry people together towards a common interest. Good buy-in seeks to align everyone with recognition of a common purpose of being together.

In different ways the Japanese have excelled in this habit, as have the Chinese. In these cultures a decision “emerges” from the stakeholders or as that of the stakeholders. The habit of this decision-maker to seek buy-in facilitates the process but does not dominate it.

With globalization we may need to buy-in increasingly diverse stakeholders into decisions. With the diversity, geographic, cultural and economic discontinuity this is becoming an ever-complicated task. Naturally the habit of buy-in in such contexts poses greater challenges.

Ensure Impact
Without impact no decision can be effective.

However most decisions involve diverse people within and outside our organizations. Routinely we need to delegate decision-making. When decisions need to be delegated to staff the context and options need to be clearly explained or bounded. Usually we use a “policy” to ensure a common decision context for such groups.
The policy therefore acts as a means to bound decision-making. A policy usually creates impact merely by virtue of alignment of decisions. Naturally it may become important to attend to the development of a policy itself.

It is a habit of impact makers to ensure clarity and focus in policy itself.

Evolve Alibi or raisons d'être
Depending on our style of decision-making and our perceptions about the audit of decisions and responsibility of impact, we may seek either an alibi or a raisons d'être for our decisions.

Decision makers who work with feeling seek alibi of “right feeling” about decisions. Those who work with reasoning seek out a logic for arriving at the decision. Either way the decision makers habit to seek out alibi or raisons d'être ensure effective communication of the decision whenever it may be called for.

Both alibi and raisons d'être serve to provide a feedback on impact-ability, ego-gratification, belonging, success, and fulfillment. All of which are necessary for maintaining the effectiveness of the decision-maker.

Build in Audit Ability
Increasingly our decisions undergo audits or post-mortems and need to be clearly justified. Naturally we seek to have a means of justification, demonstration of impact or the value of the decision in comparison to other options.

The case of Enron, WorldCom, the Iraq war, the dot-com bust, the electricity breakdowns in the US and Canada are but some examples that have caught the public eye for a long time. Undoubtedly you have your own private set of experiences where decisions have been called to audit that may be at least as disturbing.

The habit of a good decision-maker therefore ensures justification will be possible. An audit trail will help recreate the compulsions of decision-making and help justify that which was done.

Understand the Roles of Different Actors
We grapple to impact our systems where multiple and diverse stakeholders, like us, attempt to do the same. Not all actors have the same role in any system. Naturally the options they have to impact the system are different. The interest they have in different outcomes may itself differ.

What are the roles of the different actors? What are the options before them?

Effective decision-makers have a habit to identify the role of all actors and the options open to them. This ensures they can be more effective in the participatory process, and eventually as decision makers.

Creating Maximal and Lasting Impact
Not all actors have the same leverage in any system. Who has the maximum impact? Who can have lasting impact? What are the indicators used by different actors to asses their impact?

What is our ability to impact or regulate the indicators that matter to the stakeholders in our system? Effective impact-makers have the habit of identifying the leverage points, or decisions that result in maximum or lasting impact, and regulating the behaviors of key indicators in the system.

Creating Rapid Decisions
Given the pressures from lobbies, political instruments and even time (perhaps the most dangerous of them all!), the ability to make quick decisions means a lot to an effective decision-maker as well as for the success of our missions themselves

Many systems have becoming increasingly slower to respond to our decisions. At the time many systems can remain agreeable without intervention for increasingly smaller times. Effective decision makers therefore have the habit of rapid decision-making.

Even as they may hope to speed the systems responses to our decisions or struggle with making the system remain agreeable longer on autopilot, they seek to be quick to make decisions.

The Effective 7
In a global and competitive environment that selects for the best decision-makers, decision-makers are only increasingly under pressure for successful decision-making. Thus critical habits to of a decision-maker:

  • Develop policy rapidly,
  • Find points of maximal and lasting impact,
  • Recognize the role of different actors and actions,
  • Ensure impact,
  • Insure buy-in through participation,
  • Provide an alibi or raisons d'être, and
  • Provide a means for justification and audit.


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