One of the biggest challenges leaders face is making decisions. Many decisions are based on instinct or gut feel (this just feels right). Some are based on precedent (that’s what we did before and I can’t be sure of the consequences if we do something different). Other decisions are based on partial analysis (I’ve looked at the figures and they stack up).
Paradoxically, important decisions about whether businesses should merge are sometimes based on whether the leaders could do business together, whilst less critical issues, such as new IT systems, can go through rigorous reviews lasting months.
Many leaders lack a framework for making consistent decisions. The Sherwood model below is not designed to take away the usefulness of experience and instinct, but it provides a more rigorous analysis and helps you see the consequences of decisions.
Step 1: Identify your options
- Describe the situation factually – it can help to make clear what is not included and what is “given” (i.e. cannot be changed)
- Dare to be innovative in terms of potential solutions to problems
Step 2: Identify the criteria
Each situation is unique and there may be special criteria to consider. However, the following six categories of criteria should be considered to see if they are relevant:
- Values and beliefs: these should underpin the culture of the organisation. When staff receive inconsistent messages they can become insecure and confused. For each option, consider what values would be communicated by that decision and how well they match those of the business
- Purpose and objectives: each option should be evaluated against the business objectives
- Stakeholders: Identify stakeholders affected by the decision
- Timing: what is needed – a quick fix or long term solution or both?
- Competencies: does the business have the skills to implement this option?
- Resources: does the business have the resources to implement this option?
Step 3: Weight the criteria
- Not all the criteria will deserve the same weighting. Some may be more important than others and your matrix should ideally make allowances for this
Step 4: Evaluate the options
- The options should then be evaluated – a simple ranking of High/Medium/Low is often sufficient
- As a result of your analysis, you may decide to amend or combine some of your options.
Step 5: Implement
- Create a course of action that reflects the decision and analysis made in Steps 1 to 4.
Not only should this process help you make decisions, but your decisions should be better. An ancillary benefit is that others will be able to see where your decisions have come from, which should make you a more trusted leader, which can’t be a bad thing!