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Four Important Questions

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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.





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




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.

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