Here’s this month’s model.
Andy Grove, widely lauded as the grandfather of OKRs, introduced the objectives and key results concept in his book, High Output Management.
Something else he introduced was his decision-making model.
Both are beautiful in their simplicity.
Here’s his model (slightly adapted).
Here’s the gist of it.
phase 1: free discussion
People are more likely to buy into a decision and contribute towards the necessary actions if they are part of the process.
A leader’s role in phase 1 is to create a space for free discussion.
As a good friend of mine says: “Diversity creates a truer sense of reality”.
The strength of a group is in diversity, in the ability to hear different opinions and follow the collective’s wisdom.
Free discussion is only possible in an environment of safety and trust – if your people don’t feel safe, they aren’t going to raise their concerns. (How to create this space is a topic for another day!)
phase 2: clear decision
There are three ways to make a decision: consensus, majority rule, or a leader’s vote.
Consensus is scarce.
Majority rule is reasonable.
Leader’s vote is inevitable.
A leader has a crucial role to play here, sometimes two. Firstly, they must let the discussion continue until everyone’s voices have been heard, but not until the conversation becomes repetitive and unhelpful. Discussion is onerous, but necessary. This takes wisdom.
If there is a consensus here, proceed directly to Phase 3, woohoo! However, we won’t always be able to discuss and debate until we reach a consensus.
Then we settle for the majority rule, also allowing you to proceed to Phase 3. Sometimes you can even push for consensus if there is a clear majority.
But often, it requires a leader to step in and make the decision, their second crucial role. It means the impasse is resolved, and the leader takes responsibility. They don’t look to the group to make the tough choices. This takes courage.
“There is a strong temptation for the leading officers to make decisions themselves without the sometimes onerous process of discussion.” Alfred Sloan.
Don’t play the “leader’s vote” card before it’s necessary.
phase 3: full support
Also known as the wooing phase.
A leader’s role here is to bring the group on board. To woo them. Not with fake fan-fair or empty promises – but with a vision of the future, with encouragement and reminders of their calling and purpose.
Likely, several individuals don’t agree with the decision, or the particular decision wasn’t their first choice. That’s okay. They can still (and need to) support the decision.
In Andy’s words: “An organisation does not live by its members agreeing with one another at all times about everything. It lives instead by people committing to support the decisions and the moves of the business.”
Last point: What happens if we realise a decision was wrong? Man up, admit your mistakes, bank the learnings and return to Phase 1.
If you have questions, we’re always keen for coffee.
Get in touch so that we can brainstorm a few solutions together!