A Realistic Approach to Decision Making That Avoids Tangles

Sat, Apr 25, 2009

Jason Zweig, author of the Wall Street Journal's Intelligent Investor, writes that "smart people trying to do good, honest work on behalf of others" may have been responsible for the financial crisis. Zweig's article masterfully lays out some of the challenges that investment committees, boards of directors, and state boards of trustees can face in decisions to invest or not invest. His insightful column also can provide advice to corporate leaders making decisions regarding strategy and strategy execution.

In my work with countless leadership teams, I often observe teams who go along with the leader or the person who speaks the loudest. Zweig advises that the best groups are those with a mix of people who hold different perspectives and are willing to speak up when they disagree. Zweig recommends that committees charged with investing can clarify criteria for success. Corporate managers can do the same. For instance, I once worked with a cellular telephone leadership team deciding which new markets to penetrate. I worked with the team to determine what criteria determined success in current markets. They used that criteria to decide on new markets.

Another excellent suggestion is for committee members to break into pro and con groups, which each charged with developing arguments for convincing the other side. I have successfully used this technique in working with teams charged with making important decisions. This process encourages each "side" to think through their arguments more carefully, thereby benefitting the whole. For instance, I worked with a leadership team that needed to decide whether or not to outsource resources. This pro and con exercise allowed them to discover challenges that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

Finally, Zweig advises asking "how" and "why" questions, instead of yes and no questions. Corporate leaders can ask "how can we maximize our investment in the offshore operations?" instead of "should we consider cuts?"

My experience has been that teams with well thought out and executed team decision processes are much more likely to create good strategies that are executed with minimal noise and disruption.

How can your leadership team improve its decision making processes? For a complimentary consultation, contact me at info@rubenconsulting.com.

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

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