Problems in organizations are unlike the theoretical problems we encounter at school or college, primarily because they are “owned” by real people. A good problem solving and decision making process depends on ten fundamentals actions.
1. Making a proposal on a key decision, gathering input, and providing data and analysis to make a sensible choice in a timely fashion
2. Consulting with input providers—hearing and incorporating their views, and winning their buy-in
3. Providing relevant facts that shed light on the proposal’s feasibility and practical implications
4. Negotiating a modified proposal with the recommender if they have concerns about the original proposal
5. If necessary, exercising veto power over the recommendation
6. Escalating unresolved issues to the decider
7. Bringing the decision to closure by resolving any impasse in the decision-making process
8. Committing the organization to implementing the decision
9. Executing a decision once it’s made
10. Seeing that the decision is implemented promptly and effectively
However, this decision making process requires clear roles and specific powers in order to be effective. Many companies struggle to make decisions because lots of people feel accountable—or no one does. The key to a good decision making process is to be clear who has input, who gets to decide, and who gets it done.
Power of activation. People in this role are responsible for reporting an issue, gathering input, and providing the right data and analysis to make a sensible decision in a timely fashion. In the course of developing a proposal, they consult with the people who provide input, not just hearing and incorporating their views but also build- ing buy in along the way. These recommenders must have analytical skills, common sense, and organizational smarts.
Power of veto. Individuals in this role have the power to say yes or no over the recommendation. Exercising the veto triggers a debate which should lead to a modified proposal. If that takes too long, The issue can be brought to the person who has the power to decide.
Power of evaluation. These people are consulted on the decision. Because the people who provide input are typically involved in implementation, they have a strong interest in taking their advice seriously. No input is binding, but this shouldn’t undermine its importance. If the right people are not involved and motivated, the decision is far more likely to falter during execution.
Power of decision making. The person with this power is the formal decision maker. He or she is ultimately accountable for the decision.
Power of execution. Once a decision is made, a person or group of people will be responsible for executing it. In some instances, the people responsible for implementing a decision are the same people who recommended it.
Lastly, beware of three typical pitfalls.
The first pitfall is a lack of clarity about the decision maker. If more than one person think they have it for a particular decision, that decision will get caught up in a tug-of-war. The flip side can be equally damaging: No one is accountable for crucial decisions, and the business suffers. Ensure that one only person has the power of decision.
The second pitfall is the proliferation of people who have veto power can make life tough for the others. If a company has too many people in the “agree” role, it usually means that decisions are not pushed down far enough in the organization. Ensure that few people have this power, otherwise the process can be paralyzed.
The third pitfall is when there are a lot of people giving input, it’s a signal that at least some of them aren’t making a meaningful contribution. Ask for evaluation to a selected number of people only.