What are we deciding?

What are we deciding?

The first step in a setting up decisions for success is making sure everyone understands what decisions they need to make.

  • min read


What are we deciding?

One of ECG's key decisions was in trouble. ECG, Intel's Embedded and Communications Group, had to decide what should go on a roadmap of products slated for development. But many people wanted a say: the general manager, the marketing directors for each product area and ECG's strategic-planning manager.

"We were making decisions without including the right people, so they didn't stick," said then ECG general manager Doug Davis. "Someone who hadn't been involved early on would bring a new piece of data, and we'd go back and revisit the decision."

Too many organizations get caught up in this sort of costly struggle. The answer is to reset these critical decisions; to set them up to succeed. Done right, a decision reset not only improves decision effectiveness within the organization, it also demonstrates to individuals that they can overcome bureaucratic logjams.

A reset involves clarifying the answers to four questions:

  • What decision needs to be made and executed?
  • Who will play the key roles that go into a decision?
  • How will people make and execute the decision?
  • When will they make and execute the decision?

We'll address the who, how and when in upcoming posts. But the first step in a decision reset is to define the what: Is it clear to everyone what decision they need to make?

Intel asks its employees to begin every meeting with a single statement: "The purpose of this meeting is to inform you about X, to discuss Y and to decide on Z," where Z is a specific, well-defined decision.

Framing a decision correctly can be essential. As we described in our book, when Ford Motor Company was deliberating whether to accept a bailout from US taxpayers, CEO Alan Mulally asked, "What strategy will maximize the long-term value of the company?" This forced executives to consider government funding as one of several alternatives, including an operational fix, a merger, Chapter 11 and others. By framing the decision this way—and not "Should we accept a bailout or not?"—Ford was able to make the best decision for all the company's stakeholders.

In our next post, we'll look at the question of who does what in the course of a decision and examine how Intel's ECG improved its product development decision process.

This post was written by Marcia Blenko, Michael Mankins and Paul Rogers, co-authors of Decide & Deliver, and partners in the Organization Practice at Bain & Company.

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