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Who's Deciding, and How?

What's most important on this project: scope, time, or cost? Will Vendor A or Vendor B be a better fit for our organization today? Should I escalate this risk or issue? What do I want for dinner? What color should we paint the front door? Who should I vote for on November 8th?

Decisions come in all magnitudes and forms, but our general gut reaction is that we don't like them. Our aversion to making decisions often takes shape in postponing them, making poor ones, or just plain not making them at all. What if we had better tools at our disposal to help us make decisions? We wanted to share some common decision types to help you understand what kind of decision you're really making here, what's at stake, and who can provide input.


Juggling stakeholders and decisions can be tricky, especially if who will be making the final call is unclear. Sometimes it's the sponsor, sometimes it's the team together, and sometimes it's a simple coin flip. Here are four different decision-making types, and what to factor in when you're deciding who will decide, and how.


1. Command - "I Decide!"

A Command decision has one owner who decides and directs next steps. It is most effective When there is a clear, authoritative owner with the knowledge and span of control to decide and direct implementation--like a project sponsor who says time is the most important part of the Triple Constraint on a compliance project, or the birthday girl deciding she would like strawberry cupcakes for her party. If you must satisfy one individual, or there is an individual who knows the most about this particular area, product, or service, either by role or experience, this is essentially a Command decision.


2. Consult - "I'm Listening."

A slightly less authoritative version of a Command decision, a Consultative decision typically involves a clear decision owner who seeks additional advice and recommendations. These outside sources could take the shape of browsing review forums on the web, meeting with a subject matter expert, or asking for the team's input. This kind of decision makes the most sense when the implementation requires input from outside the span of authority, control, or knowledge of the decision-maker. The amount of time the decision takes and number of resources the decision maker consults is typically proportional to the magnitude of the decision. For example, a decision where $3,000,000 is on the line is probably going to take longer and have more people involved than deciding which company to use to print a $300 banner for corporate event.


3. Consensus - "Let's Decide Together."

The most collaborative and democratic decision-making type, a "Consensus" decision is when a single decision owner defers to a larger group to reach a conclusion. This type of decision is most effective when buy-in is critical, or when the decision is being made for the good of the collective, rather than for any single directive. This kind of decision makes sense when the end result will have a high impact on the stakeholders invited to collaborate in the consensus-building process.


4. Chance - "Let's flip a coin."

A "Chance" decision occurs when a single owner lets a coin flip or some other element of chance randomly decide. It's most effective when the choice truly doesn't matter, or the option paths are equal or contain next steps that are completely out of the control of the decision-maker(s). For example, rolling a die to decide what kind of takeout to get for dinner (Even, Thai; Odds, Pizza). You've already decided to get takeout, but neither party cares significantly one way or the other about the specifics.


How do you make decisions? Let us know on social media!

Topics: Sinikka Waugh, Business Skills & Business Acumen, Communication & Collaboration, Leadership & Influence

Sinikka Waugh

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day. Are you ready? If you are, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! contactus@yourclearnextstep.com


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