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Managing Decisions

Quality Tools > Tools of the Trade > Managing Decisions

 

A key part of management, of course, is in making decisions. Just getting decisions made can be a tricky job, particularly effective ones, yet in some ways that is the easy part, as you now have to manage them, making sure others understand and accept them, and that they comply with the decisions.

The first part of decisions-making is identifying what needs deciding. Later cries of 'we should have' and 'why didn't we' means a decision went begging and was not made. A good way of starting to manage this situation is to create a Decision Log. The first thing that this contains is a list of things that need deciding. This can be done by reviewing process descriptions and looking for choice points. Plans also will give indications of where key decisions are made.

Of course there are many decisions that get made every day, so you also have to decide what decisions go in the decision log and those which do not. Typically these include those which will change the course of normal action, which decide who does what and which have an impact on a number of other people.

Most decisions are ultimately made by one or few people. These have what has been called 'the big D' of the final decision. Who has the D is often unclear, leading to circular discussions and no decisions. Asking 'Who's got the D?' creates focus and creates responsibility for making the decision.

The question of 'who' is important and RACI is a useful acronym you can use around ensuring the right people are involved in decisions, asking:

  • Who is Responsible for ensuring the decision is implemented?
  • Whose Agreement is needed?
  • Who should be Consulted when making the decision?
  • Who should be Informed of the outcome of the decision?

A trap in decision-making is that is based more on opinion, desire, bias and guesswork rather than facts. The quality professional can help here by asking 'How did you come to that conclusion?' and 'On what data did you base that choice?' can help challenge and improve decisions. A good practice is often to select from a range of options using weighted criteria rather than magically pull a decision out of a hat.

When a decision is being made and documented, it can be checked that it makes sense and is practical. Questions to ask include:

  • Is it based on facts? How confident are we in it?
  • Is it clear and unambiguous? Is there a common understanding of it?
  • Does it clash or align with other decisions?
  • Is it realistic? Do we have the resources? Can it be done in time?

The Decision Log can be very helpful for resolving later disputes about who decided what, and when. It is also useful for ongoing management, checking that decisions are implemented as decided.

Useful fields to include in the Decision Log include:

  • Decision that needs to be made.
  • Date by which decision has to be made.
  • Decision actually made.
  • Rationale for decision made.
  • Person with key ownership for making the decision.
  • Person with key ownership for implementing the decision.
  • People involved in making the decision (agreeing or being consulted).
  • People who should be informed about the decision.
  • Actions required as a result of the decision.
  • Owners of actions.
  • Dates by which actions should be completed.
  • RAG status for decision (Red = urgent attention, Amber = monitor, Green = on track, no problems).

This is a simple tool but does need to be used rigorously to make it effective. It can be combined with Risk Management, Assumption Management and Issue Management to form a coherent set of controls known as RAID management. Ensuring this is used and is effective can be a valuable job that the Quality Professional can drive.

 

Next time: 100 Tips and Traps
 

 

This article first appeared in Quality World, the journal of the Chartered Quality Institute

 

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