business thinking header

These concepts are from "Business Think," by Dave Markum, Steve Smith and Mahan Khalsa.
For every business success there are 4 failures.  Thinking is the key.  Rethink how you think.

These skills provide:

Better use of time and resources

Strategic decisions

Better products and services

Solutions to critical problems

Choosing priorities

8 business thinking skills

Check your ego   Arrogance and the need for approval wastes time and resources.

Create curiosity  Explore the unknown and provide fresh thinking.

Move off the solution  Solutions are measured in results.  Some solutions are distractions.

Get evidence  Don't act without evidence.  Prove that an opportunity really exists.

Calculate the impact  Turn the evidence into dollar signs. 

Explore the ripple effect  Who or what will be affected by your solution?

Slow down for yellow lights  What might prevent your success? 

Find the cause  Treat the cause of the problem instead of the effects

Make it happen  Get money and people allocated to your project.

No more maybes

Business is thinking.
You get paid to think.  New ideas aren't the problem.  Getting rid of old ideas can be.

Ideas vs results
50% of business decisions fail.  But 91% of business people are confident about their decisions.
60% of businesses fail in 6 years and 82% fail in ten years.  95% of new products fail.

Could does not mean you should.
Never spend money that doesn't make money.

Everyone needs to think like a CEO.

Unfortunately many bosses pay people to agree with them.

EQ  vs  IQ

EQ =  Emotional quotient

EQ is your ability to relate to people and trust your instincts.   It's also maturity and the ability to clarify and ask questions.
It's also a justification of luck.

IQ = Intellectual quotient
It's using hard data to make good decisions and come up with new ideas.  But if you only chase facts you might reject good ideas too fast.

"The majority of business people are incapable of original thought because they are unable to escape the tyranny of reason"    -David Ogilvy

Blend EQ and IQ to get XQ

XQ is asking hard questions in a soft way.  You need information and details and you need to build rapport.

check your ego header

Ego alienates people and ruins companies.  It's insecurity and arrogance disguised as confidence.
33% of decisions are ego based.  66% of executives never explore options.  

Strength        Ego
Confidence                   Sense of infallibility
Quickness                    Hastiness
Sharp wit                      Abrasiveness
Alertness                      Narrow focus
Dedication                    Workaholic
Control                          Inflexibility
Courage                       Foolhardiness
Perseverance              Resistance to change
Charm                          Manipulation
Ambition                       Coercion
Power                           Autocracy
Flexibility                       Ambivalence

People with ego problems don't know they have a problem

Warning signs:
You show off your brilliance.  You're defensive and you seek approval.  People like good ideas from humble people.

If a leader intimidates, the leader will fail.

Don't try to prove you're right.   Discover if you're right.

Bad decisions are made when:
Anxiety, greed, impatience, intolerance, apathy or fear hijack your brain.  In the best case scenario you'll look for a safe, easy way out.  In the worst case scenario you'll bankrupt the business.  You'll focus on trying to prove yourself right.

Create a workplace where ideas are explored.

The cure for ego is humility, strength and confidence.   It's focuses on we instead of me.  Nobody in the world knows everything, so don't pretend like you do.

Seek other-awareness.
Don't be defensive or quick to argue.  Don't use absolute terms (undoubtedly, certainly).   Say I conceive, or I imagine.

Don't prove people wrong even if they are.  
Show them that they're "right", but in the present circumstance the idea might not work as well.  

If you're defensive when people give advice, they'll resent giving it.

Out of a survey of 150,000 managers, the concepts "receives negative feedback without being defensive" and "seeks feedback on ways they could improve" were last on the list.

Handling other people's ego
Don't encourage it or pump them up.  Controlling your own ego (not having any) is the best solution.

Language can neutralize ego
and encourage the examination of new opinions.

Softening statements:

I appreciate your asking, now when you say...

Thanks for bringing that up, could I ask you...

I hadn't even thought of that, If I could, let me ask you....

Good point, do you mind me asking...

I've wondered about that myself...

Those may be the only options, that may make sense...

That may well be an important issue...

What if...

This is really interesting...

What are the reasons for...

Did we think about...

Ego driven phrases:

Too much, too little, too slow, too expensive, better than, worse than.

Beware of absolutes:  
all, every, never, no one, everyone.  Instead, try to ask "compared to what?"

Core beliefs can ruin performance

They never believe me...

Performance isn't rewarded here...

Management ignores us...

The market has no faith in us...

Don't think in black and white terms.   Explore other options.

Pain VS gain VS reality:

Pain mode:

People in pain mode focus on negatives.  "That won't work, I don't like it, here's why its bad."  The language of pain stops discussion.

Gain mode:
These people focus on possibilities and positives.  This can distort your ability to asses reality and it might distract you from real problems.

Reality mode:
Is the glass half full or half empty?  It's both!
Allow people to vent their ideas in their preferred mode.  Then invite them to explore the other side.  Listen to peoples language.   You'll hear ego-cues everywhere.  Deal with ego tactfully and gracefully.  

No ego = better solutions.

Some people invest lots of time and money convincing themselves they're open to advice.  Then they ignore good advice when they hear it.

Self test:

I take constructive feedback without being defensive.

I listen without interrupting when someone presents an irrelevant or inferior idea.

I'm confident around powerful people without any nervousness.

I openly share my opinions without fear of dismissal or need for acceptance.

I spend equal amounts of time listening and talking.

The people I work with are colleagues (your bosses and employees).

A challenge to my ideas is not a personal attack.

I accept when people disagree with me.

I accept feedback even when it's negative and about me!

create curiosity header

Curiosity = intense, boundless inquiry

Curiosity is the soul of business.  It helps you find better solutions (and more of them).  It helps you look past experience.
It helps you find solutions that fit your companies needs.

Ask questions that get to the essence.
Dig into the possibilities, outcomes and options.  Question, interview, get facts, talk to experts and research.  Don't harass people though, use tact.

Your knowledge blocks possibilities.
Your knowledge is a filter.  It's filtering out potential ideas.  Stay open.

"It's a funny paradox.  Though we're pretty confident in our ability to observe people and draw insights out of them, we pride ourselves on starting our projects humbly- and a little dumb.  We don't want to peek at the answers before we know the questions."      -Tom Kelley    IDEO

New ideas should add to your experience, not threaten it.
New ideas are often judged based on what's reasonable.  Maybe the old ideas are unreasonable.

People choose beliefs like clothing; they want them to fit and match.  Many people want certainty.  They don't want change and will accept any theory as fact.  Use your experience, but allow experience to grow. 

"In times of change, learners inherit the earth"       -Eric Hoffer

Titles and position can hurt creativity.

If the boss is in the room, does it affect people's willingness to share ideas? 

If you're the boss:
Don't reward people for blind obedience ever!  If someone succeeds without you, make them a hero.  When hierarchy is tyrannical, the curious innovators leave

Forget your role and focus on business

The person "who focuses on contribution and takes responsibility for results, no matter how junior, is in the most literal sense of the phrase, Top Management"           -Peter Drucker

Get curiosity back

Break routines and try something new

Keep asking questions.  Get everyones opinion.  Ask, wonder, speculate, hypothesize, think, think, think and wake up!
Make curiosity a living force in your mind.

Create a chief curiosity officer or CCO
Their job is to take the opposite point of view and break people out of ruts.  A rut is a grave with both ends kicked out.  It's not a groove you "get into".  The CCO's job is to apply the 8 business thinking principles to any problem.

Think with a ? not a !

Curiosity loves intellectual diversity.  
Find people with different backgrounds and viewpoints.

Self test:

I start projects feeling humble and dumb.  I ignore what I think I know.

I ask people for different perspectives and viewpoints.

I'm not threatened by new ideas.

It's OK to disagree and I like intellectual diversity.

Unusual ideas are often worth exploring.

I stay curious without getting distracted or off task.

I reward people for being curious.

When I ask questions I enjoy the discovery process.

move off the solution header

Solution does not mean results.

Pre-determined, pre-meditated, pre-mature solutions have no value.  A solution is worthless until it creates value for the company.
You have to understand the underlying issues.

The solution might sound perfect: move off it.

"There is perhaps no psychological skill more fundamental than resisting impulse"       -Daniel Goleman

Hope is not a method or a strategy.
Get in, get out and make money often becomes get in, stay in and spend money.  Know what your getting in advance.

Coulds are the enemy of shoulds

What should you do?  Coulds are ok when thinking.  They're not ok when they drain resources.  Coulds kill businesses.

If coulds don't get ROI* kill them off.    *Return on Investment.
Shut down the "coulds" using business think.

Solutions should match the problem or opportunity. 
Otherwise solutions are simply "events".

When events pretend to be solutions:

Resources are lost

Everything gets priority, and shoulds don't get enough priority.

Chronic problems are ignored.

Costs are driven up.

Compounded problems arise.

Activity is mistaken for progress.

The crucial issues remain.


Observer expectancy error:
People use words they understand.  Those words might mean different things to you.  You assume you understand and they assume you understand.

Assume = Dumb Ass-U-Me

"The more an organization knows about a term or concept relevant to it's business, the less likely it is to agree on a common term or meaning for it."             - Thomas Davenport  

If you're unsure about the meaning, ask for clarification.
If they have to think about the answer, they're also unsure.  Clarify and understand each other.

High level abstractions
People often talk using terms that encode many beliefs and experiences.  The listener thinks they understand the meaning and they move past it and keep talking.  The concept becomes like an iceberg, 10% of the meaning is understood and 90% of the meaning is hidden.

this will sink your ship!  

"The greatest enemy of communication is the illusion of it"        -Pierre Martineau

Share a definition and get the results you want.
Ask people to define complex words.  Slow down the communication.  Don't assume or guess.  Many times you'll be surprised by what they say.   This also helps them think about what they're really trying to say.

Assumption is guessing

Assumptions in the phrase:  "We need a solution to the problem"

The problem is real.

There's only one problem.

It's possible to solve the problem.

The problem has only one solution.   

Having the problem is bad and a solution would be good.

People care about finding a solution.

We can measure the extent of the problem.

Different people perceive the problem the same way.

It's possible to determine if the solution is valid.

The solution would solve the entire problem.

The cost of the solution is less than the cost of the problem.

The solution wouldn't cause more problems or make a problem worse.

The solution will be valid over time.

The questions you don't ask will steer you into an iceberg.

Understand what people want
Facts that make sense to you might not make sense to them.  Learn their criteria for an ideal solution.  Don't make a presentation to people who's criteria, goals, knowledge and definitions are unknown.  This leads to mutual mystification.  You want mutual understanding. Guessing isn't allowed. 

If your intent matches your colleagues intent (and your ego is in check) ask the question.

Once you have a solution and everyone is clear:

Move off the solution

This avoids premature solutions.   Keep the solution handy because it might be the best, but let it go.  You'll find better solutions and resist the coulds.

Whatever action you're taking: strategies, reports, meetings, goals, research or free web content, see it as a solution, and move off it.

Examine the underlying issues and find the shoulds

List the issues the solution is trying to fix.  Make it complete and relevant.  Prioritize the list (and watch out for ego).  Keep adding to the list.  Often the last ideas added are the best and most relevant.  Be patient, take your time and sort it out.

Don't waste resources treating the underlying problem.  Fix it.

Prioritize your list:
Combine similar issues.  Divide the number of issues by 3.  This is how many votes each person gets to divide between the issues.
Voting allows you to agree as a group, but it doesn't mean your correct.

Fixed minds lead to immovable decisions.

Self test:

I reject premature solutions.

I focus on business enhancing activities.

I focus on key initiatives.

I make decisions after I understand what's relevant.

I uncover relevant issues for myself and my colleagues.

I rank each issue as relevant or mildly relevant.

I clarify peoples use of words and phrases.

get evidence header

Speed is not the answer
It's an advantage 10% of the time.  It usually results in wasted resources, missed opportunities and flawed strategies.
Activity can masquerade as problem solving and creating.

Sometimes you need a fast decision

Decide if it's a race before you start running.  You need speed, but you also need the right timing.

Slow down and get evidence
Don't act before you have evidence.  Prove that a problem or opportunity actually exists.

Businesses want more, faster.  Then they panic and do more faster!

The old saying isn't measure once and cut 27 times, its measure twice and cut once.  However, measure 27 times and never cut is just as stupid.  Or to put it another way:   Ready...  Fire...  Aim!

Reflection doesn't take anything away from decisiveness, from being a person of action. in fact it generates the inner toughness that you need to be an effective person of action to be a leader."          -Peter Koestenbaum

People make better decisions when relaxed
Your blood flows through your brain better.  You'll avoid decisions based on fear.

"it's not the fast that eat the slow, or even the big that eat the small, it's the smart that eat the stupid"    -Business Think

"Getting focused on outcomes is one thing, figuring out which outcomes are right is something else entirely" 
          -Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

Self test:

How much money am I losing each day if I don't take action now?

Is the need for speed justified?

Is speed a way to reduce my anxiety about the problem?    Or is it solving the problem?

Is it urgent?  Important?  Or both?

I focus on the main priorities.

I evaluate speed requirements for each project.

I'm not pressured to make fast decisions.

If I can't think of a better solution, I avoid the urge to plow ahead.

If I feel uncertain, I slow down and think it through.

Looking busy isn't a solution to the problem. 

Project deadlines are objective and not random.


Evidence can be misleading and subtle.
Dig deeper and see what you missed.  People are good at forming ideas.  They're deficient at evaluating and testing ideas.

"When you fail to see that your solution will be on trial, you don't get a conviction, you get a mistrial"        -Business Think

2 levels of evidence:

Soft evidence:
  Descriptive, circumstantial, anecdotal, subjective data

Hard evidence:  Measured, validated, objective, quantified data

Soft evidence:

It's the easiest to find.  It comes from experience.  It's found in peoples stories, opinions and perspectives.  It gives you leads to chase down.  It helps people feel understood and valued.

Soft evidence is the first filter
if the solution doesn't pass through this filter, it fails. 

Soft evidence generates wisdom
Hard evidence can be limited in scope.  It can fail to include important factors.  Soft evidence leads to hard evidence.  That leads to impact.

Hard evidence:

It can be measured or verified.  It can be goals or target numbers.   It's profit and loss statements or any other financial indicators.  

It shows the solutions impact on the business
It turns general non-financial ideas into financial impact.  If the financial impact is small, stop the solution right now.

The solution might cost more than the problem

Evidence comes from inside or outside the company
Your employees.  Your customers.  Your experience with similar problems.  Other companies solutions to a similar problem, etc.
Inside evidence might be biased and limited.  Outside evidence might not apply to your company

Make sure the evidence is real
You're not trying to validate your ego.

Use inside and outside evidence.
How will the market react?  How will your company react?

Self test:

I prove a problem exists.

I make a plan to achieve a desired result.

I ask people for advice and I value their opinion.

I get soft and hard evidence before proposing a solution.

I make sure outside evidence is relevant to my company.

I share inside evidence with my outside sources and I get their advice.  Is it relevant?

Finding soft evidence

Ask how and what questions

Get everyones opinion and ideas.

How will we know?

How is this happening?

How did we become convinced?

What will we observe?

What convinced us?

What specifically is happening?

Ask the obvious questions
The answers are never obvious.

You get paid to ask questions, even simple ones
Write down every answer.  The evidence can be hard, soft, factual, opinion or philosophy.  Ask everyone for their advice, no matter how junior they are.   Keep in mind that your clients tell you what you want to hear.  Your colleagues tell you what they think you want to hear.  It's human nature.  Encourage open discussion.

"Please give me an example" are the five most important words in the business persons arsenal"        -Tom Peters

The too much or too little test:
What do we have to much of, or too little of?

Finding hard evidence

Which path leads to an economic return?
Start with the results in mind.  Dig through the soft evidence and find the financial impact.

Know what you want

Our objectives are....  

We're trying to accomplish...  "

Our targets are..    

Give people time to think.  
Let them gather hard and soft evidence.  Don't agitate them with interrogation.  You want their opinion because they're smart, let them know it.

If people describe things in pain language:     Move past it and ask:

And then what happens?

What does that affect?

Worst-case scenario, what will happen?

If it's measurable, it's hard evidence

Self test:

I look for evidence I can measure.

I create a solution using hard and soft evidence.

I recognize pain language when people share evidence.

I help people understand their problems better. 

I create a storyline that makes a compelling business case.

calculate the impact

Money doesn't talk, it screams.
Don't spend money unless it brings more in.  A solution can cost more than the problem.

White board economics
It's a rough financial analysis.  Does it involve thousands of dollars?  Millions?  Tens of millions?
Use words like rough estimate, more or less, best guess.

This shows the impact of solving the problem
It helps you find the right solution.  It helps you compare solutions.  It makes the solution real and moves people towards consensus.

Five golden questions

How do you measure it?

What is it now?

What would you like it to be?

What's the value of the difference?

What's the value of the difference over time?

Involve other people
Solve the problem with them, not for them.  Make them think they solved it.

Voodoo economics
How do you project revenues over 5, 10 or 15 years?   You might look at market expansion, historic revenue, growth patterns, marketing spending levels and anticipated increase in customer demand.

Then you make an educated guess!!

If you don't like the numbers, modify your assumption and make a new guess!  These guesses are not actual reality but they give you a basic idea.

Self test

I estimate the financial impact of solution VS. no-solution. 

I ask people to help estimate the financial impact.

When I make a decision I present a strong business case.

I ask the five golden questions.

When I make a decision the ROI* is clear to me.      *Return on investment

I use financial data to persuade people and move them towards consensus.

explore the ripple effect header

A problem affects the entire company

The cost of the solution will increase based on who's affected.  The priority of the solution might decrease when compared to other priorities.  The solution might be important to your department and no one elses.

Does your solution match your long term goals?
Only 7% of decisions are made after considering long-term priorities.

A solution might solve your problem and nobody else's.

This is function think.  The solution serves a few local people.  The new strategy doesn't match the companies initiative.  You mistake your personal priorities with company priorities.  You miss the full scope of the impact.  You solve something that doesn't need solved.

Talk to everyone affected by the problem
Is your solution compatible with the company strategy?

Rate the problem on a scale of 1 to 10, and have others do the same.  It might be a 10 for you, but a 5 for the company.
Maybe the company should work on projects with a 9 or 10 priority.

Self test:

I know the role my group plays in creating company strategies.

I determine which departments will be affected.

I compare the solution with the companies other priorities.

I focus my awareness on our key business strategies.

I fix any problems that the solution might cause. 

slow down for yellow lights header

Smart people slow down when they see a yellow light.

Accept reality
If a red light's unavoidable, stop as soon as possible.

Red lights aren't failures

Making a red light more expensive is a failure.

Slow down for yellow lights.  
Tactfully explain your concerns.  Try to turn a yellow light into a red or green light.  

How can you make it work?

What can go wrong?

Why hasn't the company done this before?  Why hasn't anyone else done it?  What's different this time?  Most people avoid these questions.  Ask them in a soft way.

These responses work well

I have a concern... 

I'm confused... 

I think we may have a problem...

State the concern.
Ask them, what should we do to solve the problem?  You want them to solve it so they're convinced.   If their solution is another yellow light, have them try again.

Self test:

If the solution doesn't make sense I tactfully explain why.

If the solution is a high priority I ask "why haven't we done it already?"

I anticipate problems that could block us from our goals.

I'm willing to slow down and ask questions. 

I clarify concepts that seem confusing.

find the cause header

If you don't ask why:
It's like taking painkillers to cure a disease.  The drug hides the pain and the disease gets worse.

Treat the cause instead of the effects.

For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one hacking at the root"         -Henry David Thoreau

The reason why is often complex.
Look for the "why" after you find evidence of financial impact. 

If you don't ask why:
You might not solve the problem.  You might pick the wrong solution.  You might cause other problems and waste time, human resources and money. 

Asking why isn't easy
You might have pre-determined ideas.  Ask other people to share their ideas and observations.   You might need data from customer input, research or surveys.  Sometimes flawed thinking is exposed.

Chasing why can make people defensive

They might feel guilty.  Create an open environment and don't blame your co-workers.  You want to save the company money.  You want to know why something is happening.

The Jefferson Memorial was deteriorating.  Workers were cleaning the stones too much.  Pigeons were pooping on them.  Pigeons were eating the spiders.  Spiders were eating the moths.  Moths were attracted to the monuments lights.  They turned on the lights 2 hours later and the problem was solved.

From what and how, to why.
When you moved off the solution you made a list of issues.  Take the highest priority on the list and ask "why is this happening?"  Make a list of reasons.  Take the most important cause from that new list.  Make another list of why's for that issue.

Keep going.  It often takes 3 to 5 lists of why's to determine the cause of the problem.

Self test:

I create an environment where nobodies guilty. 

I build a case based on evidence and financial impact.

I get expert opinions from people inside and outside the company.

I understand the difference between the symptoms of the problem and the cause of the problem.
I explore new ways of looking at things.

I don't look for the answer before understanding the question.


making it happen header

After you present your case:
Ask about the timing for implementing the solution.  Get the right people.  Setup the funding.

When do you want to start the project?  When do you want to see results?  If you want it done fast you need more people involved.
Don't forget to ask these questions.  Lack of clarity causes confusion, frustrates people and slows down the process.

How many people are needed?  How long will they be involved?  Do you want internal or external people working on this project?
An unbalanced ratio can cause problems.  External people might not understand the companies needs and internal people can be biased.  Results don't magically happen.  You need a talented diverse team.  

Money talk can make people uncomfortable.  They feel the pressure of the investment and feel accountable.  People vote with their wallets.

Differentiate between
value justification and price negotiation.

Value justification:

Find out what they're willing to spend to get results.  Can they afford this?  Will they afford this?  Is it worth solving the problem?

Price negotiation
Trying to get the best deal. 

Money reactions:

Nickel and dimers:   They don't like to invest.

Sugar daddies:   They're willing to solve the problem at any cost.

If people nickel and dime projects:
You don't get the money, time or people you need to be successful.   If the results fail to appear quickly they shut it down and blame you.

If it's worth doing do it right, or don't do it.

If you sugar daddy projects:
People start to panic because of the large amount of money being spent.  The longer the project goes on, the more stress they feel.
This stress affects their decision making process.  They decide the financial burn rate is too high for the results and they shut it down before the project's done.

Either way the business loses
Discuss the financial investment the solution requires.  Align your business case with the proposed investment.

A budget's been established and it's too small.  Calmly ask them how they got their numbers.  You'll be amazed by their shallow thinking.   Point out the depth of your business case.

The counter arguments will focus on logistics and value

They agree that the solution is worth the investment but they have logical constraints.  Can the solution be implemented smoothly?  Re-examine the solution and look for yellow lights.  Work on it together.  Make the solution work with the available resources.

Sometimes a reason for saying no sounds logistical but it's actually a problem with perceived value.  Maybe other priorities are more important.  They'd be irresponsible not to say so.  Ask if other priorities and solutions have a business case that can be compared to yours.

Evaluate the coulds and focus on the shoulds

Examine everything and be honest
You'll find a solution that meets the companies needs.

Self test:

I propose reasonable budgets for a possible solution.  We discuss the budget details.

I tactfully point out budget details that don't appear realistic.

I get people to agree (or disagree) on the value justification for the solution.

no more maybes header

Decision making is dysfunctional
It's ruled by ego, hidden agendas, delays, rumors, urgency, departmental blindness, positional power, fear, poor preparation, multiple decision-makers,
office politics, changing priorities and getting people to agree.

The process is inconsistent
A new process is invented for every decision.  The process often gets in the way.  

Decision hoops

The decision makers hold up hoops for you to jump through.  Prove this, do that, get stats.       
Tell us why... ?     Uhh, we told you why....     Why... ?

Your job is making good decisions for the company
It's the only reason to fix a problem or embrace an opportunity.  It's not about making yourself look good.  
It's not about derailing someone else's ideas to give yours a chance.  That motivation is wrong 

Committee's like deciding whether to act on other people's ideas.  If the idea fails, everyone can blame someone else.
If it succeeds, everyone can claim victory.

Some businesses can't make decisions
Either nobody will decide or everyone has to decide.  The company needs the solution.  The company needs the decision.
Don't waste people's time.

Make sure everyone's willing to decide.
Decide yes or no.   No is an okay answer.  If you have the evidence, make the decision.

When no is okay:

It removes pressure.  It demonstrates objectivity.  People will be more straightforward.  You'll get better information.

Don't get addicted to "YES" or winning

Downsides to the maybe syndrome:
It takes too long to make a decision.  The situation changes and you have to start the process over.
You waste resources examining other possibilities.   You can't allocate enough resources to fix the problem.
People get frustrated and they give up on thinking.  Productivity comes to a halt.  Good ideas wait forever.  People become cynical.
The business loses its competitive advantage.  The business fails.

Now imagine this:
If the employees know that someone will make a decision, they'll approach the process enthusiastically.
They'll only have one chance to present their case and they'll get it right.  The decision-makers will specify what's needed to make a good decision.
The company will benefit.

Killing the maybe syndrome

List all the steps needed.

What will be decided at each step?

What's the time line for each step?

Who's involved in each step?  What's their decision-making role?  What info does each person need?  What decision making criteria will each person apply?

The holy decsion grid

holy grid


What steps are needed to make a good decision for the company?  Keep everyone focused.   Make a list of the go or no-go steps.  
Don't overlook anything.  Update the list as you work.

The decision
What decision gets made in each step?  Who makes the decision in each step?

The when
Each step should have a tentative date.  These checkpoints will keep things moving.  If you miss a date, bring it to someone's attention.
This holds people accountable for a decision.  It's okay if the timing changes.   Keep the dialog open.

The who
Who's involved in each step?  Identify all the people.  Why's each person involved?  Talk to those people directly.  Learn their criteria for making a decision.
Understand the issue from their perspective.  Business think with them.  Anything less then that is guessing.

Their criteria might be unconscious or intuitive (not thought out).  Help them think.

Never ask who's going to make this decision?

They'll hear:
You're too incapable, inexperienced, young, old or dumb.  I want to talk to the real decision-maker, someone important.
They'll respond by saying "I am" whether it's true or not.  Be tactful.  The five steps will determine who makes each decision.

Warning:   People often make decisions for personal gain.
Understand the ways people might win or lose.  Convince them that the company's best interest is their best interest.
Or just threaten to throw them out the window.  It works.

If you're the boss....

Clarify the steps needed to make a good decision.  Don't leave anything out or hide anything.  Make the process clear and stick to it.
Everyone needs to know what to do.  Everyone needs to know the authority they have.
Make a realistic time line for each step.

When it's decision time:
Have a meeting and get all the decider's in the room.  Make sure the presenters have all the information they need.  If they don't, delay the meeting.
Be clear on the criteria that will be applied to the decision.  Be clear that no is not a failure.

Success is measured in open communication.

Success is measured in financial gain for the company.

At the end of the meeting make a decision.  Be bold.  Yes or no is okayMaybe means you didn't prepare properly.  Stop wasting everyones time! 

Have less people make the decision
Having too many people deciding slows down the process.  They can destroy solid business think with sloppy normal think.  Tactfully exclude them.

Self test

I think about each step.
I help others think about each step.

I make a time line for each step.

I prepare a business case for others to prove or disprove.

I talk to each person involved with the decision.

I ask people their opinions on other solutions.     (Either inside or outside the company)

I search for the right decision.  I avoid projects that are clearly busy work, or pointless activity.

I find enough information to make an educated yes or no decision.

I clarify the desired objectives with everybody involved.

In conclusion

500 executives were interviewed.  The most important skills are:

Business skills    68%

Technical skills    42%

Flexibility    33%

Self-motivation    18%

Leadership    6%

Functional    3%

You don't lead a business into the past.  Now is where you are.  Be here now.

Now is where the future is created.
  Change the now.
Lead yourself now.  Business think lets you fail intellectually before you fail financially.
You need to make the right decision.  Half of all decisions fail and half succeed.

Know which half is which.