MANAGEMENT Decisions: Explain don’t SELL

The concept of selling something contains the notion that the prospective buyer has a choice. They can either buy what’s offered on sale or walk away. Management decisions, however, require compliance not a choice. Gaining compliance is management’s job and the traditional notion of selling something offers little help.

Additionally, sales people invariably emphasize the positive benefits of their wares. Most management decisions have plenty of perceived negatives for those effected. Folks often perceive dishonesty or down right stupidity in a manager who insists on emphasizing only the positive side of things.

I prefer an alternative approach for EXPLAINING management decisions. I call it the SIX W’s. It is a practical formula likely to prove far more valuable than any sales pitch in obtaining the most support and acceptance you can hope for from those whose lives your decision will impact. The six w’s are based on a core assumption that a clear explanation of things is the firmest foundation for achieving any degree of understanding , acceptance and support.

WHAT Did You Decide? — If you cannot explain your decision in a single declarative sentence you are already in trouble. Work at this until you can.

WHY Did You Make This Decision? — There must be a reason beyond “I just felt like it” or “trust me”. There was a problem needing addressing, a gap needing filling, a potential future that should be avoided. You will be judged harshly if your action appears arbitrary or unnecessary. Your reasons for action should be compelling.

WHAT Do You Hope To Accomplish? — A laundry list is unnecessary. Aim for a short, clear, understandable statement of core objective outcomes you believe your decision will achieve. Remember, your decision is an act of faith, or bet if you will, on an unknowable future. At this point you will be judged on the clarity and reasonableness of your expectations.

WHAT Criteria Will You Use To Measure Accomplishments? — This critical necessity often fails to occur to many decision makers. Such overlooks are frequently expressed in the phrase “we’ll see what happens”. Certainly there is the unpredictable, the unforeseen, and the uncertain. But without a clear sense of the measurable outcomes you expect your decision to produce, how will you or anyone judge the wisdom of your actions? Hoping for a blind luck, positive outcome is not sound decision making. It’s flying by the seat of your pants.

WHEN Do You Plan To Evaluate Progress? — Just the fact that you plan to reevaluate at some point is important news. Providing a reasonable time fame adds weight to your seriousness and offers reassurance to those who opposed the decision in the first place. You should revisit in light of your measurement criteria; they occurred or they did not. If not, now what?

WILLINGNESS And Assurance You Will Make Course Corrections — You can promise this but best you have a track record of admitting mistakes and making course corrections beforehand. Suffice to say, do not promise this if you don’t mean it.

*Listen to this Post on Spotify Podcast: “Insights for Managing & Leading”.

Categories: Communicating Effectively, Managing & Leading, Self-Management

4 replies

  1. Very insightful post, Terry. We are dealing with some changes in our mortgage business, and this should be helpful in gaining support. And I like the ‘curse corrections.’ 😉

  2. Hi Terry,

    Please note correction in last paragraph of your blog….


  3. I can certainly use this!

    Do you find that people tend to be naturally inclined to certain W’s? The 1-3 and 6 feel very natural for me; it’s 4 and 5 that I typically dread or conveniently “forget”.

  4. Leah….you are not alone. What I actually find is that many managers make a hash out of one or more of the six. The worst mistakes involve a lack of clarity about the ultimate goal and its relevance to your organization’s best interest, and/or a lack of specificity about how you will measure the success of the outcome. Seems obvious when you think about it but is the most frequent W overlooked. The sixth W is critical in assuaging the concerns of those who thought you were nuts for making the decision in the first place. A willingness to make course corrections buys you a lot of support. Terry

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