CEO Guide for Creating an Action-Based Decision Culture


The challenge executives face today in making the best business decision possible simply challenging. From how to rally support for ideas and gather the appropriate justifications for these ideas to understanding the impacts on others in the organization should the idea be supported and successfully executed. Not to mention how do you communicate the message of a decision in the most expedient and effective way possible. Unlike the days of old, when executives could ponder the problem for a while before making an official announcement of their decision, today’s leaders must execute critical decisions in real time.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • So how do you, as a leader, go about this decision making process
  • How does your leadership team currently make effective decisions for the company?
  • Do they require sign off by you or do they have ability to move on decisions without you? “Wait, did you say without me” you ask? Yes! The most effective organizations have very capable leaders who enroll and rally the troops, build sound rationale and even better return projections then delivering positive results.
  • How best do you ensure your executive team is aligned on a decision processes in an age where speed is essential?
  • What data supports and information (and in what forms; sophisticated data analysis systems with executive dashboards or are you still using spreadsheets) are available to the leadership team to build decision criteria?

Below are a few simple steps to at least get started in this Part I article. Part II (click here) is a simple checklist you may use to help as well.

The first step is understanding your personal decision-making comfort level. What is your leadership style? Do you believe in a top-down, hierarchical system, or one of collaboration? Do you prefer to empower others to make sound decisions, or do you believe in a stronger sense of oversight? The key is to acknowledge your own style and build a system and culture that plays to your strengths. If you attempt to apply a strategy that is not consistent with your personal comfort level, then your employees will inevitably question “how are decisions made here at xyz company?”

Second, assess the current processes of the leadership team and where the possible gaps may be in decisions being made today. Review examples of successful decisions in your company. Explore how they were instigated from start to success. Do the same for decisions that did not go so well, what were the breakdowns? Can you define or see where things broke-down or were their barriers to the success of the plan?

Third, explore meetings held in the vain of reviewing new ideas. How do these meetings end? Do you ever hear or say “this is a good idea!” Some take that to mean it is approved only to find out later that is not what the team meant. How should meetings for decision making be held and what are the triggers for something being approved? What do you need as a leader to feel comfortable and assured the team can act without you?  Then what do you need to track progress to maintain this comfort level.  Know that comfort is a loose term as new directions are never comfortable but data, reports, information and communication can inform on progress that provides a level of comfort the team has a good handle on things.

Forth, break out decisions into non-critical and highly- critical decisions. For example, create a “sandbox” for how you make the day- to-day tactical decisions that need to move quickly are to be made. For more complex decisions (for example; new product ideas, or changes in manufacturing processes) understand what data is available in house to support decision makers in your company and what may need to be sourced through outside resources. Are the systems, the data analytics, the dashboard reporting tools what they need to be to make your teams more effective at decision making? These are questions to explore with your team. Now separate and define your processes for non-critical and highly- critical decisions, meaning create a template for justification criteria for each type of decision. This provides a model framework that is consistent for teams to follow. Everyone understands and speaks the same language when it comes to the information needed to make the sound decisions in front of them.

Your Decision Process

For the most strategic decisions having major impacts on the organization you may build a solid business case model taking an entrepreneurial approach.  Using a company wide consistent template for the business case summary would streamline communications and make it easy for everyone to digest.

Fifth, one of the more difficult parts of a good internal decision process in many cases, is crafting and orchestrating the communication inside the company. This is best broken out into to 2 distinct needs:

  1. The need to communicate effectively the decision framework so everyone is working from the same playbook for building consensus and approval for decisions going forward.
  2. Then the need for internal communication process to share important decisions and enrolling the necessary internal resources to execute successfully.

Lastly, and most importantly is the need to have “decision check-ups”  on a regular basis not just during your monthly or quarterly review meetings. This piece of the puzzle is all too often forgotten or ignored. Evaluate your decisions on a report card, grading the leaders in some fun or playful way on how the company is doing, will allow you to give credit where credit is due, and also help you uncover the success and failures of your method.You’ll be able to reinvent your decision-making process, discovering which employees

what is/isn’t working, what returns the organization is receiving, and how responsible were other team members for making the plan a success. This offers great insights on execution and which part of the process may need refining.

There is no single way to make a good decision, but there is a process that will give you the opportunity to make them more often and more consistently. If you follow a checklist about your own leadership style, your strategic decision process, your executive communication strategy, and your ability to review your decisions again and again, your organization will avoid financial failure and internal strife. Good decisions can be hard to make, but with a good process bad decisions can be easy to avoid.

For a simple checklist to start moving your leaders to a culture of decision making click here.

Follow Teresa Spangler @composerspang or Plazabridge Group @plazabridge.Teresa often speaks on trends, disruptive technologies, innovation and adoption, leading through growth and uncertainty. She is the author of the Game of Life Book Series, a contributing author to OpenForum. Click to learn more about Plazabridge Group.

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