Think decisiveness is a hallmark of business excellence?

Impact Based Decision Making

When it comes to being decisive, velocity and quality are mutually exclusive.

Whether I’m consulting related to the health of a client’s business or their workforce, I nearly always deploy a decision-making tactic I’ve thoughtfully titled Impact Based.

Grounded on the very simple idea that most business people have difficulty compartmentalizing (particularly when they are owners, partners, or investors in their company), the tactic forces a decision maker to process and consider all the circumstances resulting in their need to act or decide, and then isolate the impacts of said circumstances on all affected parties. All decisions, communication, instructions are then borne entirely from the impacts of a circumstance versus the ‘who’ or ‘what’ involved in the circumstance itself.

While this approach can add a little extra time to the reaction process, deploying Impact-Based Decision Making can result in huge dollar savings, less conflict, and more creative solutions to everyday issues which can waste both dollars and hours.
Intrigued? There’s more to come, but, before we get deeper into how you can use this concept, I think it important to discuss the common mistake the business world at large seems to make about the concept of being decisive. The mistake being that decision-making velocity is more admired and promoted than the skills required to make smart decisions.

Straight out of the gate, I introduced you to the foundation of Impact-Based Decision Making – which is to consider all the details of a circumstance and to set almost all of them aside before taking any next steps. This probably sounds illogical and counterintuitive. And, there’s a reason for that: you typically are not acting unless you have a personal connection to something. It is challenging to set personal feelings and preferences aside when you are in possession of feelings and preferences.

When we decide based on impact, versus feelings and preferences, we can remain objective and fact-based. Furthermore, when the time comes to communicate our decision and our decision-making process to others, we can be more educational and informative. Knowing and sharing the impacts of A over B may not lessen a blow, but it will shift the conversation from appearing opinionated.
Navigating Impact-Based Decision Making tends to be easier when you have an objective, outside party, as you can imagine. I am confident about this approach with my clients because I have the privilege of coaching and advising them through situations where the absence of a consultant would have dramatically different results. In short, I get to ‘hold the mirror’ to clients and shepherd them away from bias, subjectivity, and opinion.

But not all businesses have the budget to hire outside parties to help them navigate their business challenges. Nor do all challenges warrant the expense of an outside party. Yes, the challenge is real and important, but not so big that you need to bring someone in – which often adds time to a time-sensitive situation.

In these cases, you can still self-coach and self-direct through Impact-Based Decision Making. But first, let me share examples of the types of questions (or answers) you will not use to make impact-based decisions;

Who is responsible for this and what do we know about them?
Avoid looking for someone or something to blame.

What must go or be replaced to fix this?
The quick fix of removing and replacing can cost you hundreds, if not thousands more in dollars and time.

Why did this happen? Why did this happen to (enter affected party name)?
Playing the victim or going into victim mode shifts the perspective and the ability to think rationally and/or adapt to an unwelcome situation.

What is/are (enter affected party name) opinions about (circumstance or offending party)?
Bias is dangerous. In the workplace, action based on opinion can result in outcomes that range from hurting feelings up to legal action.

Basically, as part of impact-based decision-making is to remove the possible influence of opinion, emotional reaction, and the other factors that tip the scales too early.

Instead, ask questions like the following:

What is the impact of (enter circumstance) on me and/or my team and/or my business?
The question applies to nearly every possible decision you will ever make. Choosing between a burger and fries or a grilled chicken salad for lunch? Ask that question. Needing to discipline an employee for bad choices or behavior? Ask that question. Have the equipment which you need to either repair or replace? Ask that question. Want to start a new business? Ask that question.

Why are these impacts important?
The answers may surprise you. As you respond to this question, you may find personal agendas or preferences staring back at you in the way of words like; I, Want, Love, Hate, Need, Now, Partner Name, Kid Name, etc. Basically, words which are loaded with emotion and feeling. Two things which do not always lead to wise decision making.

Who else will be impacted by (enter circumstance) and how?
These two questions are essential because often we are decisive to satisfy our own need or to meet one person’s definition of correct. When we stop and consider who will be affected by something, and how it can really influence us.

Finally, after you’ve considered all the above, you ask yourself this final question:

Am I willing to share why I took the action I did, why I made the decision that I made?
The reason why this question is so important is that decisions or actions that are borne out of reasons which you are afraid or embarrassed to admit to others is an indication they are poorly made. No matter what the decision is, and how shocking or surprising it may be for another to hear – you must be confident about it. If you cannot confidently stand by your choices, you have made poor ones.

Now, as with everything else, there is a time and a place for the above-mentioned process. You may find yourself with a lot of agitated and irritated colleagues if every decision you make requires this much work. I want to make it clear that decisions that are made from the hip, made on the spot, and made without the benefit of deep thinking are often some of the best decisions people can make. Not everything can be improved upon with time.

That said, as I make my way through the organizations I serve and study, I encourage this approach when historical data demonstrates decision-making practices leaves a wake of chaos, confusion, hurt feelings, or conflict. This approach is also very helpful for people new to management, new to a role, or new to a business.

My hope for you is that you reflect on your own habits around decision making. Are you impulsive and knee-jerk or are you the opposite? Are you known for being decisive and wise or decisive and destructive? Ask around, find out, and consider trying out the process I laid out for you above. Afterward, let me know what happened – you know I always enjoy hearing from you.