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Decisions, Decisions

Sometimes when I am working with a client there comes a point in time when the organization gets stuck on a decision. This is one of the hazards of the consulting industry. The lack of progress can cause delay and it can be much worse if you are not there to help facilitate the process.

How do you get past a tough decision? I suggest that you follow a process that covers the following elements.

1. structure the process with criteria
2. include those who must be involved
3. have the information available
4. set a deadline and stick to it

Ultimately, I think the most important tool for get through the decision making process is to understand the criteria that ultimately separate a good decision from one that is less desirable. Starting this off with a look at the idea of using criteria, you might want to consider two types:
- Attributes
- Success Factors

Attributes are those aspects of the decision alternative that represent the basic appeal or the liability. For example, when deciding between two software packages, it is normal to compare what each package can or cannot do. One package may come out of the box with a more tailored look and feel for your industry, while the other package has more built-in features for customer service. Making a decision based on attributes is basically a beauty contest and relies on tabulating a catalog of pros & cons to determine which comes out looking best.

Success factors represent the ability for decision alternatives to satisfy the requirements of the business if chosen. In this case, the decision process examines what the decision alternative will produce as a result of being selected. For example, when choosing between structural options for a telesales function there could be a decision point for going with a product versus account / territory approach. So, the question is what are the important success factors? Product focus allows for deeper understanding of the product line and perhaps a greater ability to close the sale. An account or territory focus allows for better account relationship development and increases the reach rate for each dial. Which is best depends on the product you sell – a need for product knowledge or a need for reaching the buyer. Make the decision based on satisfying the need.

Which Way

Decision making based on success factors is more complicated than simply rting attributes. It takes more understanding of the ramifications of the different elements of decision alternatives. But, this is not to say that attributes are to be ignored. You have the ability to consider both. When creating a hybrid model, I do encourage a bit of weighting to be included. Attributes may not be as critical to satisfying business requirements as are success factors. Sometimes it can be helpful to give a hi/med/lo type of rating to the different criteria being used.

What about the other elements of the decision process listed above? Well, don’t go through all the work to uncover the decision criteria and then leave out a critical stakeholder. This will just serve to slow down the implementation of the decision. Have all the key people involved even if it adds a bit of time up front. It will pay off.

Information for decision making is frustrating when it is unavailable. Much of the time you learn that there is information you need at the time of making the decision, but you don’t have it. So, anticipate both – try to be proactive in gathering your information requirements, and also build your process so that you have time in between steps to augment the data needed to feel secure in your decisions.

Finally, if there is one tool that helps the decision process most efficiently it is a good deadline. Organic deadlines are best and are comprised of natural events that cause a decision to happen – board meetings, budget calendars, annual sales meetings. However, when these are not convenient, then just create one. Putting a psychological stake in the ground does work, especially if stick to your self-imposed deadlines. If you have a poor track record of this kind of thing, then look for a reason that is ancillary, but meaningful – before summer vacations impact scheduling, prior to the end of a quarter selling rush, before the end-of-year holiday down-time. Just pick a sensible deadline and justify it. Of course, you also have to stick to it.

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