Let it be personnel decisions that are long overdue, investment decisions that are constantly delayed or – and this is what we experience most often – prioritization of decisions that have not been made: Every project has an A-priority – and some have double A!
And did you know: the word priority entered the English language around 1400 A.D. and was originally used only in the singular. It meant the primary or most important thing. For the next 500 years, it continued to be used only in the singular. It was not until around 1900 A.D. that it was also used in the plural and since then humankinds spoke of priorities. As if by changing the word, you could also change reality and as if somehow, we could now make several “priority” matters our goal.
In our daily work in organizations, we often observe that leaders and teams shy away from taking (important) decisions. Decisions are being postponed or analyzed until nobody knows what is right or wrong anymore. Leaders lack courage to take decisions because of the following reasons:
- Perfectionism: I always have to take the perfect decision
- Fear of failure: A wrong decision will have bad consequences
- Fear of being judged by others: I will lose my credibility in case I am wrong
- Doubts about legitimacy: Am I the right person to make this decision?
- Learned helplessness: My decision will not be implemented anyway
How many leaders do you know that shy away from taking important decisions? How many projects, workshops & meetings do you know in which a lot is said but, in the end, nothing is decided?
In todays’ episode we would like to share a simple & hands-on decision-making tool that we very often and successfully apply in our workshops. A tool that really accelerates decisions. It is called “decision making by consent” and it follows a 3-step approach:
Step 1: Make a proposition that you stand for.
The proposition needs to be concise and formulated in a way that you can decide on by voting. Before voting, answer some questions which aim at clarification.
Step 2: Decide by voting.
Every decision maker votes by using his/her thumb:
- Thumb up = I like the proposal
- Thumb left (or right) = I have a few concerns, but I can live with proposal
- Thumb down = I have (at least one) major concern – I can’t live with the proposal
In every decision situation without any thumbs down, the decision is made. In case of (at least) one thumb down, you go to step 3.
Step 3: Take over responsibility & make a new proposition
People having voted with “thumbs down” need to explain their concern. They need to answer the question: “What do I need to not disagree?”. Finally, they have to take over responsibility to find an alternative solution/proposition. With this alternative proposition the decision-making process re-starts at step 1.
It´s as simple as this. There are two very strong elements in this process that really accelerates decision-makings:
- Asking the question in step 2: “Can you live with it”?
- The awareness of all participants that they must take over the responsibility for new proposal in step 3.
Which important (leadership) decision have you been postponing for too long? Just start with step 1 and try it out by following the 3 steps explained above.