The First Decision You Always Make (part 2 of 3)

By Tom Davidson

There are many ramifications of how you decide, so before making too many decisions on autopilot, jot down these criteria and keep them handy:

Whether you know it or not, think about it or not, consider the consequences or not, the first decision you make is always how you will decide. While it might sound like circular, deciding how to decide is literally the first step in every decision-making process, including the following:

Non-decisions: deciding not to decide (postponing or ignoring)
Authoritative decisions: authority without input and authority with input.
Collaborative decisions: collaboration to the point of general agreement, collaboration to the point of consensus, majority rule, and compromise.
Delegated decisions: delegation without authority and delegation with authority.

Making the first choice count
There are many ramifications of how you decide, so before making too many decisions on autopilot, jot down these criteria and keep them handy:

1. Decision quality. Because people have different perspectives, information and insights, collaboration can lead to higher-quality decisions, ones where resources are well-used, options are carefully developed, and the benefits and risks are deliberately weighed. However, if the collaborative process is not well-arranged or executed, the decision quality can actually be reduced.

2. Timeliness. Some decisions must be made in a hurry, but unless you’re a firefighter, warrior or rescuer (where time is fleeting and life is in peril), be careful not to make too many snap decisions, especially where you have little experience. As a manager, you also have to weigh the time you have for a large number of decisions and judge which ones are the highest priority based on risk, visibility and impact.

3. Buy-in for execution. As a leader, your decisions will often have to be executed by others, and it doesn’t matter how high a quality decision you make if it is not executed well. Therefore, you must factor-in the amount of buy-in or “discretionary effort” you will need from others to make it work. People have a deep and completely voluntary reservoir of discretionary effort they can put forth in support of your decisions, and you have to earn it.

What other criteria would you consider in choosing which decision-making method to use? What are some other special cases where buy-in for execution does not need to be earned?

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