Decision-making that sticks. Democracy vs. expertise

Have you noticed the many different ways decisions are made (or not) among different groups and various generations in the organization?

Have you noticed that the groups with deep practice expertise – risk managers, engineers, curators, etc. – think their decisions are the only ones that matter? Meanwhile, other groups long for a democratic decision-making process in which they have an equally powerful voice. Then there are the risk-avoiders! Finally, we’ve noticed that older workers appear to make decisions in a completely different way from younger workers.

The key to good decision-making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter. – M Gladwell

The gap between autocratic decision-making (often delivered via the word ‘no’) and that of the shared democratic decision-making fans prevents both sides from noticing the two things they have in common – the time they waste arguing about decisions and the aversion to being accountable when things go wrong (they blame others).

A key element of decision-making is how the various parties take criticism of their ideas, usually not very well. How we critique ideas matters – we want to enhance the idea, not kill it. When the involved parties are unable to give or take either purposeful or negative criticism of their ideas, decision-making becomes a debate with a winner and a loser.

Finally, it escapes many that making a decision is about learning, not winning. Hence, all of the above slows down the ideal decision-making process where people are decisive, make a commitment, and go learn something.

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.– RW Emerson

How do we help the autocrats, democrats and risk preventers come to better decision-making process in which people learn that making a purposeful decision is more important than who’s making it?

First, try the notion that discussion about outcomes matters, not the actual decision.

Then, consider some simple, but better questions during the discussion that leads to decisions and solutions.

What do we want to be better / do more of as a result the decision?

If we were successful, what would it look like for various stakeholders involved?

What are the barriers to success? Suppose we overcame them, what would we be doing instead?

Imagining that the decision we’ve made has been of value, what would we have seen ourselves doing to get started? 

More about better questions using the Solution Focus approach