Decisions, large and small are important. They move organizations forward. Unfortunately, mostly organizations are terrible about making decisions. See if any of this seems familiar.
“We have discussed this one thing a zillion times. Someone just needs to decide.”
“We decided this already – and this guy treats the decision like it never happened – I think because he just doesn’t agree.”
“A decision was made, but because nobody hears about it, we have people heading off in different directions.”
I am not even talking about the quality of decisions. That is another blog for another day. I'm just talking about making decisions within an organization that enable the organization to perform better and with less confusion and re-work.
Some people try to use email to track decisions. They get out of a meeting and send a summarizing email with decisions and actions. This is an improvement. At least there is some record of the discussion and most often, the decisions are documented accurately.
But email is surely imperfect. Not everyone impacted always gets the email. Not everyone that gets the email reads it carefully. And after a while, who can even find that email anyway?
Here we propose a simple and practical way to ensure...
- The right people are making a decision
- The decision is widely understood and implemented
- It is easy to find a decision when you need it
- Decisions stick – so people can move on
- There is a simple process for re-opening a decision
Make sure the right person or people are making the decision.
This might be a bit harder than it seems because in many organizations decision making authority is ambiguous. Nevertheless, force the discussion. Who can decide? Then assign them the responsibility.
Use a persistent and visible way to log decisions.
Use a decision log that is viewable by the team anytime anywhere. There are lots of ways to do this. SharePoint list. OneNote list. Shared Excel list. Personally, I like SharePoint lists because everyone can get to it and you can do reporting easily – for example, how many decisions are outstanding? Who has decisions they need to finalize? That sort of thing.
Make sure whatever tool you use can be searched easily. If you are using the decision log correctly, it won’t be long before you have a lot of decisions. So, finding “what is the budget for the next off-site”? is faster and easier.
You also have to permit people to re-open a decision.
For example, let’s say the off-site is scheduled next Friday and suddenly there are customers coming to visit with the entire executive team. Maybe we need to re-open that decision.
Below is a simple table that we have used with many clients to ensure decisions are made in a timely way, by the right people and are visible to the whole team.
Decisions to be made are formed as a question. That makes it easier to understand both the decision to be made and the answer given.We have a Decision # so it is easy to point someone to the decisions. “See decision D33”.
Knowing who made the decision makes it easier to ask questions of the decision maker. “John, where is the off-site?”.
Generally, we track some other things as well. Status. Notes. Decision participants. But you get the basics.
What is the down-side of such a log? People lack the discipline to maintain the log.
So pick the most disciplined person in your group to build and maintain the decision log. Your team will perform better; decisions will be clearer and easier for you to implement. And for once, you can ask that guy in the meeting to just look at the decision log before he derails another meeting.