Two Keys to Getting Tough Decisions Executed Well

20190410 Decision Making

Large decisions carry plenty of execution risk. To increase the chances that your decisions are executed the way you want them to be, focus on clearly explaining the decision and actively managing change.

Today’s post is by Mike Figliuolo, Managing Director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC.

If you want to make a successful decision, communicate the rationale for the decision to the broader organization. Lay out the context you’re making the decision in. Tell people what the decision was and why it was made. Explain the goals for making the decision. Tell people how you’re going to monitor execution. And also that you’re willing to make new decisions as you get more information. Perhaps even tell them what some of the contingency plans are.

Explaining the Decision

The better people understand why you made the decision, the less they’re going to second guess it and the more they’re going to support it. Their support is critical to reducing execution risks in making the decision. It helps you get the decision out and executed quickly because they’re bought into it and there are not going to be obstacles.

For example, at one company I worked for, we did a large layoff and those are always difficult decisions. Most of the time, layoffs are kept quiet and people don’t know they’re coming. This CEO did it differently. He laid out a complete presentation that explained the rationale for the layoff. He explained the strategic implications and the market dynamics that were driving this change. He also explained what might happen if we didn’t act.

People didn’t necessarily like this decision. Their friends were going to be laid off. Some of these people were going to be laid off. But they understood the strategic rationale for making the decision and they supported and executed the plan. They did so very well. As you’re looking at the big decisions you’re going to make, be sure that you put that context around it, tell people why you’re making the decision and how you’re going to measure success.

Managing Change

Making decisions requires you to manage change. Just because you made a decision doesn’t mean it gets executed. Operational risks exist and change management is how you’re going to mitigate that risk.

Some principles of change management you should think about as you’re implementing these decisions are first, you can never communicate too much. People will always have questions about the decision, why we’re making it and what your expectations are. Let them know and let them know frequently.

Second, tell them what you know, when you know it. The worst thing that can happen is people think you’re withholding information. Sometimes, “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer. It lets people know the information being shared is all the information that you’re able to share.

When you hear rumors during the execution of a major decision, squash them as fast as you can. Get the right information out there. Reassure people about what they care about. In many cases, it’s their jobs or their job description. By doing so, they can focus on executing the changes you’re requesting rather than gossiping at the water cooler.

Lastly, reward people for embracing and acting on the change. Sometimes, those rewards will be financial. Sometimes, it’s giving them a bigger role.

For example, I know of a situation where change management wasn’t done well and the decision wasn’t executed properly. The CEO and senior leadership team decided to make a change to how they were going to do their financial reports. This meant rebuilding all their processes, recasting their data and making the reports very different from what they currently had.

The leadership team made this decision and they communicated it to the organization but they didn’t follow-up with the proper change management. Someone at the director level successfully blocked the rollout by making themselves an obstacle. They made it hard to get the data. They didn’t put together the reports as they were asked. In this situation, a director overrode the CEO. The CEO and the senior leadership team hadn’t invested enough time in letting people know the rationale for the decision and letting them know how they were going to roll it out going forward.

When you’re making large scale decisions, make sure you’re communicating frequently and accurately. Give people the rationale and help them embrace that change rather than resist it.

To learn more about making and executing decisions, check out our training course Deliberate Decision Making. We’ll teach you how to get the most out of every negotiation you enter. You can also watch my course Executive Decision Making on, which includes a free chapter on assessing risks. Watch the course introduction here:

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

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