In my management workshops, we spend considerable time focusing on decision-making. The sheer number of decisions most managers make in a week is staggering, many of them on the fly, with little time for contemplation. We also focus a lot of attention on the “acts of faith” embodied in most management decisions — only time will tell if you decided prudently — and thus the paramount importance of post-decision follow-up to see both how things worked out and the important lessons contained in those decisions that did not.
I tell workshop participants that it is generally a waste of time wracking their brain in search of the ABSOLUTELY RIGHT decision. In most cases, we have a range of decisions we can make in a given situation, each gains us something and each costs us something. So we must pick one. This generally leads to a discussion of finding a strategy that improves one’s odds of picking wisely, or looked at the other way, of avoiding the really bad choice.
Having logged my share of poor decisions during my management career, I am always hesitant to suggest any profound insight on the subject of having found any full-proof approach. But over the years I did evolve a strategy which seemed to work for me, when I had the time to employ it. I call it “THE STRATEGIC TRIANGLE”© and in this and the next article I will discuss each of its three components and what I believe they can do for you if you consider them before you act. I see these components as important elements of sound strategic forethought.
At one point in the Strategic Triangle sits the question “What’s the Piece I Control?” (WTPIC). I believe it is a great place to start before one acts. WTPIC involves considering three important choices we all have: WHETHER, WHEN, and HOW we will respond to a situation, problem, challenge or issue we confront?
Managers are often presented with problems and issues that should ultimately be left for others to address. Upon reflection, for example, you might consider some issues above your pay and rank level and thus you will want to passed them on. On the other hand, employees have been known to pass along their own problems to the boss just hoping you will take the time to resolve them on their behalf. WHETHER you respond at all is always a choice you should consider. If the situation is rightly within your authority and responsibility, then the question is WHEN you should act?
Not everything needs confronting at once. As I have written elsewhere in these articles, establishing priorities and re-assessing them daily is what the best managers do and deciding whether the latest matter placed on your plate needs immediate attention or not, is an important part of that priority setting exercise. Moreover, the when question is especially critical if the situation has generated strong emotions, especially anger, within you and there is a danger that you may say or do something you will later regret. In these circumstances, a delayed reaction, perhaps in private if necessary, is a worthy choice.
Lastly, it is always worth considering the HOW of your response. Should you be dictatorial — you direct the details of the response — or collaborative –let’s work this out together? Should you be stern with an employee who is performing poorly, or adopt a teaching role hoping to instruct and encourage improvement? If you are angry about something, how much of that anger would be useful for you to show? If others will be watching your response, what is the message you wish them to take away from your action?
There are no correct answers to any of the above questions. But remember, the challenge is to increase your odds of making better or fewer bad decisions. A little WTPIC forethought is always helpful. In the next article, I will address the remaining two pieces of the strategic triangle.