Getting Business Decisions Made – 1

It is wonderful how we humans make decisions in life, and, in a certain way, it is even more wonderful how we make decisions at work.

I do not wish to digress too much, but perhaps the first subject is the illusion of power. For example, perhaps most decisions in our business lives must be followed by other people to be meaningful. This usually requires that the followers actually believe the right decision was made. Or, at least the decisions are much more effective if the followers believe in them. To obtain that belief, it would help that the decider at least involve the “followers” in the decision process — but I digress. Esther Derby recently wrote a blog entry on “Estimating hard-to-measure benefits.”

Her example is getting approval for a readiness review. An earlier example had been getting approval to do a face-to-face Retrospective. I want to take what she wrote and broaden the case. Also, talk about getting approval for most things, e.g., for most things to do with the Agile adoption at your company, or most things to do with the success of your project. Let’s assume you are a project leader. Thus, like everyone really, you can either get approval up-front or ask for forgiveness later.

Esther suggests these steps for hard-to-measure benefits (not quite comparable to what I wish to discuss, but close enough for a start):

  1. Identify the proposed course of action.
  2. Determine what’s important to the person who makes the decision.
  3. Ask that person who they consider credible sources related to the issue.
  4. Create a short interview protocol.
  5. Interview the people the decision maker identified as credible.
  6. Summarize and present the results.

I want to comment on these in a somewhat different context over a couple of posts. In this post, I’ll only cover Esther’s first point.

  1. Identify the proposed course of action.

First, I would suggest taking the attitude that you are not worried about one decision. You are trying to set up a string of small decisions that lead eventually to overall success (e.g., perhaps for your project). You can lose a battle; you wish to win the war. And, you must respect the decision maker’s (or makers’) problems: No time, no data, confusion, the fog of war.

Second, early on, assess who are the right people to be involved in the decision. You often have more influence over this than you might think. You get to pull them in.

Third, as an early case, bring to the decision-maker something that is close to a no-brainer. It is clearly something that ought to be done. Most decisions should really be easy. If it’s hard, there’s probably an easy opportunity out there you should be working on instead. Build up the decision-maker’s confidence in you… that you only propose good ideas.

Fourth, if the decision is more borderline, tell the decision-maker that. They often trust you more if they feel you are an honest broker.

More in the next post.


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