Arbitrary Important Decisions

The problem is: A decision is needed. Almost everyone agrees that it isn’t really important what the outcome is, as long as an outcome is reached. The decision is therefore arbitrary, but is important.

Who will take responsibility?:
This doesn’t change the problem, it simply makes someone responsible
for resolving it. The success would depend on the authority they are
perceived to have in driving a decision.

An Executive Decision:
The decision is escalated to the Executives to make. Some balanced information could be presented to the executives and possibly some short listed outcomes. The reason the decision hasn’t been made in the first place could possibly reflect a conflict of opinion between the executives themselves and so this may simply be moving the problem and not drive out a speedy result.

A management mandate:
Someone is mandated to obtain a consensus and achieve an agreed decision.

Ongoing avoidance:
Everyone avoids the decision until it becomes so critical that something breaks and an outcome is forced.

Someone sees the issue as important and takes it on themselves to try to drive out a decision.

So now someone is responsible or at least everyone agrees that a decision must be made quickly. Now this person has several options to achieve an outcome

Unilateral Decision:
The responsible person could attempt to make the decision on their own and then sell the outcome to all the stakeholders. Depending on the percieved authority of this person, this may be completely unsuccesful or may achieve limited buy-in. It is unlikely that anyone else will feel a degree of ownership sufficient to care if the decision turns out positively or negatively.

Management Decision:
The responsible person could convene a forum of the affected managers and facilitate a deicisonmaking process to drive out an outcome. This is significantly better than the first option, but only the management team are likely to be driving the outcome.

Stakeholder Negotiation:

Put all the Stakeholders in a room, and facilitate the debate until an
outcome is agreed, either by consensus or majority or in the worst case
unanimous decision. This could take a long time, but hopefully an
outcome has broad based buy-in. (This may not have to be a physical meeting if a facilitation process exists to support a remote method of achieving consensus.)

Where the decision is not arbitrary (i.e. there is a right decision or
a wrong decision) then the process would need to be supported by a
carefully planned process and be informed by appropriate research.
What is critical then is that the criteria for making the decision are
agreed in advance.

So really this applies to any important decision, where buy-in is important. Try to include as many people as possible in the process and plan carefully so that the facilitation method used ensures that an outcome is achieved. The important thing is that everyone identifies the outcome as one they participated in achieving and those who disagreed with the outcome acknowledge that the process used was valid and agree to support the decision.

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