MOVE TO ACTION 1 67
Four Important Questions
When choosing among the four methods of decision making,
consider the following questions.
1 . Who cares? Determine who genuinely wants to be involved
in the decision along with those who will be affected. These
are your candidates for involvement. Don’t involve people
who don’t care.
2. Who knows? Identify who has the expertise you need to
make the best decision. Encourage these people to take
part. Try not to involve people who contribute no new
3 . Who must agree? Think of those whose cooperation you
might need in the form of authority or influence in any
decisions you might make. It’s better to involve these
people than to surprise them and then suffer their open
4. How many people is it worth involving? Your goal should
be to involve the fewest number of people while still con
sidering the quality of the decision along with the support
that people will give it. Ask: “Do we have enough people to
make a good choice? Will others have to be involved to
gain their commitment?”
How about you? Here’s a suggestion for a great exercise for
teams or couples, particularly those that are frustrated about
decision making. Make a list of some of the important decisions
made in the team or relationship. Then discuss how each deci
sion is currently made, and how each should be made-using the
four important questions. After discussing each decision, decide
how you wi l l make decisions in the future. A crucial conversa
tion about your decision-making practices can resolve many frus
I ru l ing issues.
1 68 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
DECISION-MAKING BLUNDERS AND SOLUTIONS
Now, let’s look at each of the four methods in turn. What are the
common blunders associated with each, and more importantly,
how can we avoid them?
Appropriate Use of Command
The mistake. For years, employees have complained that their
bosses are far too bossy. They hand out orders like Halloween
candy. They not only tell people what to do, but also restrict
them to only one way of doing it. They give directions down to
the tiniest detail when it would be better to allow the employee
to work out the details of how the job will be done. After all, the
employee is not only closest to the job, but is also the expert on
how to do it.
Today’s generation of employees (and children, for that mat
ter) expects to be involved in more decisions than their grand
parents ever faced. That’s where the empowerment movement
came from. Younger people don’t see themselves as a pair of
hands seeking direction. They want to think. They want to
decide. They’re willing to take on more responsibility.
So as you face a potential “command decision,” consider the
• Don’t pass out orders like candy. We face enough command
decisions (constraints placed on us by outside forces) without
making up new ones. As a general rule, if people can make choic
es, allow them to do so. Don’t tie their hands without reason.
With kids, for example, you may establish rules about cleanliness
in the common areas of the home, but you may let them choose
(within the boundaries of hygiene) how to keep their rooms.
• When you face a command decision, ask which elements are
flexible. Once a standard has been set by an agency or an order
MOVE TO ACTION 1 69
placed by a customer, while you may not be able to decide what
to work on or what standards to follow, you can decide how to
work. Find out where you do have degrees of freedom and then
allow others to choose within these boundaries .
• Explain why. When handing down an order, explain the reason
behind the demand. Knowing why helps make what a lot eas
ier. For example, if you decide overtime is needed to meet a
deadline, it helps to explain why you came to this conclusion.