Real Decisions


Sometimes, it’s difficult to get a decision in organisations. Action lists from meetings are too often open to interpretation. We pore over the minutes of the steering group, and wonder what was decided.

If we are trying to get something to happen in a complex world, one thing we need is a real decision, probably more than one. So it’s important to recognise them when we see them.

A real decision is one which indicates a definate choice between possible options, communicates an intention to act, and is announced by someone with decision-making authority.

  This is not a decision… This is a decision…
The opposite is a real option “We will balance the security of London with prevailing budget constraints”(of course you will, anyone would, the opposite is not an option) “We will build the Thames Barrier”(There are other options, including not building a Barrier. A Real Decision excludes some options.)
It communicates an intention to do something, or not do it “Running is a good way to improve my fitness.”(this is a description of running, not a commitment to action) “I will run three times a week starting tomorrow”(this is a commitment to action)
You have the power “Someone should give those sales people some product training.”(this is a good idea, but not a decision) “I am the sales director and I’ve set aside this time and this budget to train the sales force.”(I have the authority to take the good idea into action)

The words matter.

Words to watch are:

Should –

“we should train our technicians to sell”. Yes, but will we?

Need to, must –

as in “we need to communicate this…”. Good, who will do the communications, when and where?

Consider –

“we must consider providing childcare” is not a decision to do so

Words to use in formulating real decisions are:

I will…., I will not…

We will…, We will not….

…all followed by an action such as buy, sell, train, allocate budget for, increase, decrease, meet, stop, recruit, move, build, tell, pay, connect…

So, next time you are in a meeting, try watching to see if real decisions are being made. A decision is not action, of course, as anyone who has read Five Frogs on a Log knows.

But the more definite you can make the decision, the more likely it is that action will follow.

When you go to ask for a decision, make sure you get a real one.

Categories: Communicating Change, Conversations which work

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