To be a manager is to make countless individual decisions for which you will personally be held responsible and accountable. However, in most organizations managers collectively are also required to occasionally come together at various levels to decide and implement decisions that will impact their entire organization simultaneously. It is these latter collective decisions that I refers to as “CORPORATE”.
In this series of six articles I lay out a step by step process for corporate decision making that my experience has demonstrated both helps groups arrive at and implement sounder decisions, and provides the sort of management accountability for their decisions any organization has the right to expect from those in charge. I suggest reading them in order because each step builds on what comes before.
STEP FIVE: COMMUNICATING DECISIONS
There are few things humans do on a regular basis that are more difficult than communicating a clear unambiguous message from one person to another. I have been married to the same fabulous woman for many years, we know each other extremely well and can almost complete each other’s sentences from time to time. But we can still miscommunicate without batting an eye. Now increase the size of the audience by any number you like and the opportunities for miscommunication become almost limitless.
I very much like the notion of mastery; the idea that with lots of hard work you can master a skill. But when it comes to communication I believe that is impossible. You can just get better the harder you work at it, still knowing that someone, some how will hear what they want to hear, or hear not much at all.
So with a decision and a set of success measurements in hand, yet another requirement of an effective decision meeting is to craft a message to your organization that aims to clarify what their corporate leaders have just done and why. The Process Monitor should record the message and assume responsibility for dissemination as appropriate.
Heading the insights offered by Chip and Dan Heath in their fascinating book “Made to Stick” — which explores the anatomy of messages that stay with people — I suggest as they do keeping it simple, concrete, and stress what is in the decision for your organization. You can accomplish this in the following simple, four-part model that generally lends itself to a one or two page format.
1. WHAT WAS THE DECISION?
Here you want to spell out the decision in specific, plain language. “We have decided to” is a great way to begin. Whether it was to reorganize, invest in something, undertake a new initiative, or whatever keep it to one or two sentences at the most. If explaining the decision itself requires more wordage than this, then chances are there is some lack of clarity regarding what exactly the group did decide.
2. WHY WAS THE DECISION MADE?
Again, a couple of simple, declarative sentences will do. “We made this decision to” is another great way to begin. Here you want to capture the decision’s major overall goal. Discuss subsidiary goals later. Most corporate decisions should have a central objective in mind. State what it is.
In addition, the best, most compelling rationale for any corporate decision is one that ties it to the overall mission or purpose of the organization. So consider mission-focused language beginning with something like the following: We believe this decision will help , improve , enhance, further, augment, etc., our organization’s…………..
3. INDICATORS OF SUCCESS
Here you want to list that finite set of measurements or indicators you have chosen to look for as evidence that the decision is having the desired outcome. And the best measurements are those whose logic has a clear, common sense quality that makes them understandable and legitimate in the eyes of the overall organization. Strong disagreements may exist about whether your indicators will occur but their logic should not become a debatable or laughable matter.
4. WHEN WILL THE DECISION BE REVISITED AND ANY NECESSARY COURSE CORRECTIONS MADE?
This last inclusion in your communication of a decision to your organization serves three important functions.
First, it acknowledges your collective recognition that you will not know your decision’s impact until you have implemented it and observed the results. A revisit timeframe communicates realism.
Second, it promises all those who may disagree with the decision, that there will be a reassessment on your part and an opportunity for course corrections if necessary.
And third, it communicates your understanding of the importance of closely monitoring the impact of all corporate decisions, because they effect the work lives of so many individuals in all organizations.
No form of communication can guarantee an absolute clarity of message, nor assure the communicators that everybody will take away the same understanding from its receipt. But a carefully crafted, widely disseminated document like the one outlined above, certainly is a substantial improvement over each group member having a go at summarizing the decision, desired results, and measurements on his or her own.
One of the sober realities of memory is how we subtly and unconsciously alter a memory each time we attempt to recall it. The document suggested here is at least an unchanging communication suitable for repeated revisiting.