I am regularly called by estate agents seeking an objective view on decisions they need to make on a whole range of issues from whether they should close a branch to how to change their staff commission scheme for the better.
One of my clients called me for some advice a while back when faced with an unusual decision he had to make, which might seem trivial but which was important to get right. One of his staff had requested that he be allowed to leave the office 40 minutes early every Wednesday evening to watch his son play football. My client was uncertain whether to grant his wish. We had a conversation around this challenge and talked through how he might deal with it.
Like most issues in business, if one has a clear process to follow, one tends to reach an acceptable end result.
Help is at hand in the form of a recognised process – the 5 Cs of decision making – which ensures valid choices are made and problems with erroneous decisions are avoided.
Firstly, it is important to CONSIDER. This is a time for reflection and contemplation on a whole raft of elements pertaining to the scenario upon which a decision needs to be taken. Full knowledge of all the facts relating to the decision must be researched and deliberated. Consideration must be given to all the options that could be taken and critically all the potential implications and outcomes of these options. Previous decisions made within similar situations (and the success or failure thereof) should be referred to, as should the parameters of one’s authority and indeed any legal implications, company policies and procedures.
The second stage is to CONSULT. Anybody potentially affected by the imminent decision may see an angle that the manager himself/herself has missed. An element of consultation with fellow managers/directors who have found themselves with similar dilemmas could prove invaluable as they will be able to advise on the result of previous experience. Running certain decisions by legal and technical experts may also be valid.
The third stage is the CRUNCH. This is the point at which a decision needs to be made. It is possible here that a manager may have to decide that he/she is unable to make a decision and therefore has to resort to further CONSIDERATION and CONSULTATION before doing so.
Fourthly, the manager must COMMUNICATE the decision. All parties that are likely to be affected must have the decision clearly explained with an element of rationale attached. Anybody else who may hear about the decision through a company grapevine should also receive the decision through a more reliable medium be it a meeting, email, letter or telephone call. Language used must be unambiguous to ensure clarity of understanding. Lastly, out of courtesy, those who were consulted earlier in the process should benefit from the knowledge of the ultimate conclusion.
Finally, as with many key areas in management, there needs to be a CHECK. At an appropriate, prescheduled future point, the validity of the decision must be verified. What was the outcome? Had all consequences been foreseen and positive? Was it the right decision? If the answer to that final question is in the affirmative, then it is time to draw a line and move on…if not, then it is back to stage one and another trip through the 5 Cs.
Out of interest in the case above, following the call, the manager considered everything involved, consulted several parties including myself, crunched the decision (in fairness, taking probably the less easy option- he had declined his member of staff’s request to leave early, citing the potential disruption to the office and the dangerous precedent that would be set, potentially encouraging other staff to raise similar issues. He had however, agreed that his team should structure the diary each Wednesday to allow the member of staff in question to leave bang on time and watch the second half of his son’s football matches), communicated it (the employee, whilst not overjoyed, seemed to respect and understand the decision) and will no doubt check the outcome in the future, although I understand that it is so far, so good.