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Effective decision making: avoid confusing discussions with decisions

A key to effective decision-making is to avoid confusing discussions with decisions. Discussions are important for ensuring that the widest range of information is available to make a decision, but treating a discussion as a decision is likely to lead to confusion, frustration and ineffective actions.

Open discussions are important, but they’re not the same as making a decision

Open discussions are important because they allow everyone to understand the problem, the possible approaches and the concrete proposals for moving forward.

A pattern I’ve seen with teams that struggle to make effective decision is assuming that just because a difficult topic has been discussed there is a shared understanding of what has been decided and a commitment to act consistently with the decision.

Group sessions

 

Often these assumptions are not stated explicitly, leading to statements like “we decided a lot of things in that meeting” when in fact there weren’t any decisions. This can be followed up later by frustration over “how come we are discussing this again? I thought we decided on this in a previous meeting!”

It is important to be explicit about any decisions made during a meeting. One approach is to highlight them visually, which I’ve used when using a simple kanban approach to meetings.

Some basic characteristics of effective decision making include:

  • Being clear about the process used to make the decision
  • Allowing people to raise any concerns or interests
  • Explicitly stating what the decision is

Have you been in situations where you or someone else has confused discussions from decision making? Tell me about your experiences in the comments.

Benjamin Mitchell's Twitter ProfileHi, I’m Benjamin. I hope that you enjoyed the post. I’m a consultant and coach who helps IT teams and their managers consistently deliver the right software solutions. You can find out more about me and my services. Contact me for a conversation about your situation.

Image Credit: CiscoANZ on Flickr

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