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The 4 Horsemen of the Decision-Making Apocalypse


Decision-making is coming up inPulse Checks a lot these days. Like, a LOT.


But the conversations aren’t about power or entitlement. They’re not about “who gets the D” (as in decision right).


What’s poppin’ (as my teen loves to say) is the burnout people and teams are feeling from the inefficiency, the exclusion, the lack of downstream consideration as choices and tradeoffs are made.


Poor decision-making hygiene is degrading the employee experience and triggering organizational unwellness.


And as I’m debriefing Pulse Check results with clients, decision-making is more often than not rising to the top of their priority focus lists.


While each organization’s experience is unique, here are the four core decision-making challenges I’m seeing…and what we can do to redefine our norms.


Challenge 1: Decisions made upstream without downstream consideration


This is the classic “Sales promised the moon and stars to the customer, and now client delivery or operations has to figure out how to make it happen.”


The experience? Downstream teams feel victimized.


The truth is, it’s not malice driving this dynamic. It’s lack of information – of understanding on the front end. So have your front-facing folks – your salespeople, your account managers - spend just a bit of time downstream they understand what it takes to deliver on promises they’re making.


Set parameters for promise-makers, so they stay “in the lines” when these choices are being made.


And ensure incentives motivate wise and healthy choices versus a “bigger is always better” mentality.


Challenge 2: Decisions made by those with more authority than expertise


Here we have the old “A bunch of SVP’s decided this sounded like a great idea…but no one checked with the coder or the financial analyst or the recruiter whose expertise could have shaped a wiser, faster, better solution.”


The experience? Your subject matter experts feel devalued, unimportant.


So, bring an expert to the table! Done wisely this step should neither be arduous nor slow you down. Spend 30 minutes having execs pitch the idea, and invite the coder, the recruiter, to just tweak or advise.


There’s no obligation to blindly follow the SME’s lead. The only obligation is to listen, to consider, and make a fully informed choice.

Challenge 3: Decisions made without regard to personal impact


You know this one. “The company decided everyone has to be in the office on Thursdays,” or “this is the script we’re now using on customer service calls.” And now we all just have to live with it even if it makes our lives – and experience – worse for wear.


The experience? Your people feel uncared for, untrusted.


Run a focus group. Test drive your decision before making it official.


I just wrapped a Pulse Check with an organization that announced– for business reasons – that all remaining PTO for the year must be taken before the fiscal end (which, for them, is May 31). On paper, it made sense. In the world, people are devastated – unable, suddenly, to enjoy family summer family time.


Again, no malice. It was an oversight. But it should have been pressure tested and negotiated before being formalized.


Challenge 4: Decisions just not being made on time


Sing it with me: “We’ve been waiting on [insert name of favorite senior leader] to just make the decision and we can’t move forward until he does so!”


Ugh.


The experience? People feel disempowered, ineffectual.


The fix here is to ruthlessly minimize the number of decisions that require committees or approvals. Employees have been hired not just to do the job, but to make decisions around how best to do the doing.


So where can you strip out approvals and committees and just let the doer do?


Find a spot where the risk is minimal and start there. Let someone make the choice and run. See how it goes. Course correct as needed. Loosen the reins over time.


Where there are major compliance, legal, or financial risks – sure. Hold those tight. But let some other things go.


Any of these feel familiar? Where will you begin? Oh. And let us know if we can help.

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