Strong decisions are based on good (and complete) information.
Early in my career, people would complain at the water cooler that Sr. Leaders were making all the wrong decisions. When I brought this up to my mentor, she told me that Sr. Leaders can only make decisions based on what they were told. She said it was our job, no, it was our responsibility to filter out the minutia and present the information in a way that strong decisions can be made.
Over the last 30 years, I have learned that 99% of the time people don’t hide the necessary information but rather the information they have access to falls into one of three buckets;
Bucket 1 – Prioritizing which information is most important to share
Everyone, from the front line worker to the CEO, must work on providing the right information at the right time for decisions to be made. My mentor used to tell me that all information isn’t equal yet all information can be useful. Some information while good, may not be necessary to make a decision. You have to decide which is relevant to pass on.
And yet, sometimes we provide the right information and the decision still doesn’t go as we planned or in our favor. If that’s ever happened to you, you may want to consider revisiting the data set and ask yourself the context you provided the information. Did you select the right data set? How can you improve your presentation of the facts for next time? Sometimes the data gets lost in the messaging.
Bucket 2 – Summarizing the details into an actionable story
What happens when you have presented the right information and no decision is made? In those instances it’s possible that your “ask” was lost or maybe you didn’t really ask for a decision. Leadership may not know you need a decision. A best practice is stating the decision needed with options/recommendations.
Sometimes simply asking for a decision may be what is needed. Remember, you’re living in your details whereas your boss is mired in theirs – they aren’t necessarily the same. Case in point, a CEO at an automotive company I reported to had his day broken into 15 minute segments. When I went to see him I kept my story to the essentials and focused on the ask/action/or result of our conversation. If he required more details, he’d ask. Which leads me to my last point.
Bucket 3 – Understanding what information is needed for a decision to be made
How many times have you watched a presentation meander on with no point in sight? I once knew a lead engineer who’d start a meeting by telling each presenter, “Start with the last sentence first” because he wanted to know whodunit. He wanted to read the last chapter of the book and know if the Butler was really innocent?
In those instances when you find yourself the subject matter expert in a subject and everyone is looking at you for the data. Take the time to think through the decision tree (maybe even flowchart it) for your boss. Present the options (good and/or bad) and results (good and/or bad). This will speed up getting a well vetted decision. Don’t get tripped up in arcane information but have it handy if the decision maker(s) need it.
In summary, everyone absorbs information differently: pictures, verbal, written. Find what works best for your audience and present accordingly. We are all part of the information flow that drives decisions. Think about how you can do your part to ensure the right decisions are made at the right time.