I wrote this for a previous team a while ago. It borrows heavily from Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager and many other people much smarter than me. I forgot about, found it, and figured I’d share it in case it’s helpful…
Making better decisions
A GOOD decision maker anticipates high impact decisions early in any new endeavour, and creates the space and time to make good decisions in their plans. A BAD decision maker doesn’t recognise or understand the consequences of the decision that they need to make, and rushes or runs out of time to make good high impact decisions.
A GOOD decision maker matches the effort to make a decision with the impact of the decision. A GOOD decision maker isn’t afraid to make a quick decision when it is easily reversible. A BAD decision maker spends too much time on decisions that have a small impact and not enough time on the decisions that will have a big impact.
A GOOD decision maker makes decision based on the impact to customers, the business, partners and internal teams. A BAD decision maker ignores one or more of those groups. A BAD decision maker makes decisions solely based on what will keep more senior people happy, or advance their own career.
A GOOD decision maker will change their decision when new input is received. A BAD decision maker will stick to their guns despite new evidence that may allow for a better decision.
A GOOD decision maker is aware of their own emotional state and biases when making decisions, and will delay a decision if they feel they are reacting emotionally rather than rationally. A BAD decision maker reacts emotionally without reflection or understanding what’s driving their emotional reaction, and proceeds anyway.
A GOOD decision maker will gather and filter a broad range of perspectives and data points before making a decision. A GOOD decision maker solicits the appropriate input to ensure that a decision is being made with a holistic view of the impact that decision will make. A BAD decision maker makes decisions in isolation that have knock on impacts to other parts of the business without consultation or understanding.
A GOOD decision maker understands perfect data is rare and they will be judicious in how much data they need to decide based on the importance of the decision. A GOOD decision maker will realised when there’s easily obtainable data that will improve the quality of the decision. A BAD decision maker will either delay making a decision until they have perfect data, or will only use the data already available, irrespective of whether that data is appropriate or sufficient.
A GOOD decision maker isn’t afraid of robust disagreements and discussions that involve different perspectives. A GOOD decision maker will advocate for their opinion while being open to other perspectives. A GOOD decision maker will support a decision that they don’t agree with if that is the agreed path forward. A BAD decision maker avoids confrontation or ignores perspectives they disagree with. A BAD decision maker battles other perspectives based on emotions and escalates disagreement instead of understanding. A BAD decision maker continues to challenge a decision after agreeing to disagree.
A GOOD decision maker continually moves the conversation around the decision forward. A BAD decision maker continually revisits prior discussions without adding anything new.
A GOOD decision maker keeps an open mind until a decision is required, allowing new information to be presented. A GOOD decision maker communicates the status of a decision to people who are impacted by the decision throughout the decision making process.
A GOOD decision maker checks in for approval with relevant people when a controversial or high impact decision is made. A BAD decision maker will rush a big decision, and run out of time to consult more broadly before the decision needs to be made.
High impact decisions
A GOOD decision maker recognises that high impact decisions usually have one or more of these characteristics:
- Difficult/impossible to change once you’ve implemented them (non reversible)
- Have a non trivial cost implication
- Lower customer trust in our brand / break a promise we’ve made
- Prevent customers/partners/suppliers access to a service they desire
- Impact multiple teams or other initiatives
Escalating decisions for approval
A GOOD decision maker escalates when:
- It is a high impact decision
- They have not made this kind of decision before
- They feel uncomfortable/nervous making the decision
- Their manager would be surprised to find out they were making the decision
- They do not feel like you are the best person in the company to make that decision
- They have made this kind of decision before, but the decision was overturned at a later point in time
- They have only considered their perspective and don’t know if it affects other people
A GOOD decision maker seeks approval for a recommendation rather than asking for a decision without a recommendation. A GOOD decision maker succinctly explains the options they considered and why they dismissed other options. A GOOD decision maker makes it easy for a senior to agree/disagree with their recommendation quickly. A GOOD decision maker identifies the tradeoffs between underlying tensions in any chosen option. A BAD decision maker presents a decision as final with no context as to why that option has been chosen, and makes the senior do the work to understand the situation.
Getting alignment on decisions
A reliable way for achieving buy in on high impact decisions:
- Start with a view point. Have an opinion, and formulate a recommendation
- Do your research to validate your view point
- Adjust your decision if you need to
- Get peer feedback — discuss with those closest to you first, but try to get representation from all teams impacted
- Adjust your decision if you need to
- Outline the options — include reasoning of why you didn’t go for the other options
- Expand your circle to get input from all stakeholders before presenting to leadership
- Present to leadership as simply as possible — rarely should anything require more than a page
Developing decision making skills
Decision makers get better at making decisions by:
- Trying to understand different perspectives on decisions they disagree with
- Reflecting on the decisions they have made and how they could have made them differently
- Developing relationships with people in other parts of the business and understanding their perspective and what they care about
- Challenging their own decisions, and probing their own biases
- Using the following questions to interrogate logic/rationales/discussion:
- Go / NoGo. Do we need to talk about this?
- Clarification. What do you mean?
- Assumptions. What are we assuming?
- Basic Critical Question. How do we know this is true?
- Causes. What’s causing this?
- Effects. What will be the effects?
- Action. What should be done?