Making Decisions Explicit

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Telephone Game

Decision are made all of the time – so often in fact, that they slip our conscious mind: better to be aware and care for making decisions explicit.

In an episode of Ezra Klein’s podcast, his guest Denis McDonough (former chief of staff under the Obama administration, who comes across as incredibly smart and considerate in this interview) was asked what the most important traits of a president would be. His answer was, that the most important aspect would be to be conscious and clear about decisions. Every person entering the president’s office, potentially is facing a moment changing his or many other persons life and that the president must be totally conscious and careful about that.

He then said, that even putting off a remark is a decision.

„You have to know you’re making decisions. The moment you’re putting of a remark already is the moment you make a decision.“ – Denis McDonough

While that may be more true for the POTUS, because of the enormous lever any of his decisions puts to work, it is actually true for any of us in any job and any business.

But actually anyone of us, even more if we have people reporting ti us, need to be aware of the fact that not listening, putting off remarks, not taking input serious already is deciding. And that these are decisions that have the potential to ruin hours, days or weeks of the people that work with us.

Where this problem is most acute, in my observation, is when the leadership of a company decides things with best intentions but forgets how painstakingly the discussions were, how much context was discussed and then had influence on the decision and then simply give a simple statement to the rest of the company (if any).

Of course that statement can not carry all that context and whatever went into the decision. Therefore it would be a great idea – and I am getting really conservative here 😉 – to make some kind of a protocol of important decisions and the context and find a regular way to communicate that. A monthly or quarterly all hands is surely not enough. Another opportunity to keep our company engaged in the telephone game and people complaining in watercooler conversations.

The faster the turnaround in companies gets, possibly fuelled by agile teams, the bigger the gap gets between slow decision making and communication and fast action on the ground floor. And the more important it gets that we take of frequent broadband communication in the company. While I am thinking of it, graphic recordings and visualizations of top management decisions might make even more sense that graphic recordings of conference talks.

With the amount of information around us, it is hard to cut through that noise and it is actually astonishing that we have a blind spot for communicating the most important information to those immediate around us and impacted.

By the way, if you love nice visualisations, here you can subscribe to brilliant visualisations made by XPLANE, the company of Dave Gray – guest of my last podcast in which we – of course – also talk a lot about the power of visualizations.

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Thanks for the photo to bark on flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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