If the CEO of your organisation requests you to create a model for decision-making of the leaders, how would you get around with it? You know that a logical and systematic decision-making process helps you as a leader (and also to the other leaders) address the critical elements that result in a good decision. By taking an organised approach, you are less likely to miss important factors and you can build on the approach to make your decisions better and better.
If you research hard enough and add that to your work experience as a leader,
you will come across six steps to making an effective decision:
1.Create a constructive environment.
2.Generate good alternatives.
3.Explore these alternatives.
4.Choose the best alternative.
5.Check your final decision.
6.Communicate your decision and take action. Let us continue with details of each step.
Step 1: Create a constructive environment
To create a constructive environment for successful decision-making, make sure you do the following:
Establish the objective – Define what you want to
Agree on the process – Know how the final decision will be made, including whether it will be an individual or a team-based decision. When you sit down to make a decision, your style and the degree of participation you need to get from your team, are affected by three main factors:
Decision quality – How important is it to come up with the ‘right’ solution? The higher the quality of the decision needed, the more you should involve other people in the decision. Subordinate
commitment – How important is it that your team and others buy into the decision? When teammates need to embrace the decision, you should increase the participation levels. Time
constraints – How much time do you have to make the decision? The more time you have, the more you have the luxury of including others and of using the decision as an opportunity for teambuilding.
Involve the right people – You can use what is known as ‘Stakeholder Analysis’. This is the technique used to identify the key people who have to be won over. You then use stakeholder planning to build the support that helps you succeed. The first step is to identify who your stakeholders are. The next step is to work out their power, influence and interest, so you know who you should focus on. The final step is to develop a good understanding of the most important stakeholders so that you know how they are likely to respond, and that you can work out how to win their support – you can record this analysis on a stakeholder map.
Allow opinions to be heard – Encourage participants to contribute to the discussions, debates and analysis without any fear of rejection from the group. This is one of the best ways to avoid ‘Groupthink’. The term Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when the desire for group consensus overrides people’s common sense desire to present alternatives, critique a position or express an unpopular opinion. Here, the desire for group cohesion effectively drives out good decision-making and problem solving.
Irving L. Janis coined the term Groupthink and published his research in his book, ‘Groupthink’. His findings came from research into why a team reaches an excellent decision one time and a disastrous one the next. What he found was that a lack of conflict or opposing viewpoints led to poor decisions because alternatives were not fully analysed and because groups did not gather enough information to make an informed decision.
Gradually introduce more and more people to the group discussion and make sure everyone is heard. Encourage all members to contribute on an individual level ‘before’ being influenced by anyone else. This results in a wider variety of ideas; it prevents people from ‘hiding’ within the group and it helps people avoid being ‘stepped on’ or overpowered by stronger, louder group members. All of this helps the group make better decisions.
Also, recognize that the objective is to make the bestdecision under the circumstances: it’s not a game in which people are competing to have their own preferred alternatives adopted.Make sure you’re asking the right
question – The 5 Whys technique is a classic tool that helps you identify the real underlying problem that you face. The 5 Whys technique is true to this tradition and it is most effective when the answers come from people who have hands-on experience of the process being examined. It is remarkably simple: when a problem occurs, you uncover its nature and source by asking ‘why’ no fewer than five times.
Here it is in action: Problem: Your client is refusing to pay for the leaflets you printed for them. Why? The delivery was late, so the leaflets couldn’t be used. Why? The job took longer than we anticipated. Why? We ran out of printer ink. Why? The ink was all used up on a big, last-minute order. Why? We didn’t have enough in stock and we couldn’t order it in quickly enough. Counter-measure: We need to find a supplier who can deliver ink at very short notice.
Use creativity tools from the start – The basis of creativity is thinking from a different perspective. Do this when you first set out the problem and then continue it while generating alternatives. Standard idea-generation techniques concentrate on combining or adapting existing ideas. This can certainly generate results. But here, your focus is to leap onto a totally different plane. These approaches push your mind to forge new connections, think differently and consider new perspectives.
However, such approach will only succeed if they are backed by rich knowledge of the area you’re working on. This means that if you are not prepared with adequate information about the issue, you are unlikely to come up with a great idea even by using the techniques listed here.
There are several techniques you can use to break established thought patterns: Challenge assumptions: For every situation, you have a set of key assumptions. Challenging these assumptions gives you a whole new spin on possibilities. You want to purchase new showroom space in an office complex for business development. However, you cannot since you don’t have the money to make a down payment on the loan. Challenge the assumption. Sure, we don’t have cash in the bank but couldn’t we sell some of our other assets to raise the money? Could we dip into your fixed deposit fund? Could we work on a disposable sale of our outdated merchandise and build up the kitty in four months? Suddenly the picture starts looking brighter.
Reword the problem: Stating the problem differently often leads to different ideas. To reword the problem look at the issue from different angles. “Why do we need to solve the problem?”, “What’s the roadblock here?”, “What will happen if we don’t solve the problem?” These questions will give you new insights. You might come up with new ideas to solve your new problem.
Think in reverse: If you feel you cannot think of anything new, try turning things upside-down. Instead of focusing on how you could solve a problem/improve operations/enhance a product, consider how could you create the problem/worsen operations/downgrade the product. The reverse ideas will come flowing in. Consider these ideas – once you’ve reversed them again – as possible solutions for the original challenge. (Next week: How to generate good alternatives) (Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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