Different Angles Issue 4: Making It Up As You Go

Issue 4: February, 2012

In This Issue

  • Making It Up as You Go: A protocol for designing decision-making processes organically 
  • Featured Training: Building Mutual Respect and Trust
  • Podcast: Moving from Complaints to Collaboration
  • Free Organizational Boulders Assessment

Know somebody who would benefit from reading this eNewsletter?  Please forward it to them using the link at the bottom.  Thanks!

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Welcome to the fourth edition of Different Angles, the eNewsletter of New Perspectives Coaching, Training and Facilitation. In this issue, I want to build on the article I shared last time about clarifying roles in decision-making, and talk about how we make decisions about how we make decisions!

Making It Up as You Go: A protocol for designing decision-making processes organically

I spend a lot of time with groups talking about the processes and systems they use for making, and communicating, decisions. I hear a lot of frustration about organizational decision-making systems that are

  • Not clear
  • Overly rigid/bureaucratic/slow
  • Too informal/casual
  • Not real (not how decisions really get made)

The general expectation seems to be that groups are going to create/have clear, step-by-step systems to ensure that decisions get made by the right people, via the right channels. And the general experience seems to be that this isn’t how it actually works.

Certainly having good systems for the kinds of decisions you have to make regularly can create more clarity, and allow things to move more smoothly.  However, reliance on this model has several drawbacks:

  • You can never predict all of the decisions that will need to be made and so our established protocols often don’t cover what’s just come up.
  • Having rigid protocols can be paralyzing, particularly at times of rapid evolution in organizations.
  • Decision-making structures often get ignored in the heat of urgency.
  • Even when it is not an emergency, the articulated protocols often don’t match the way decisions actually get made, which can cause confusion, frustration and mistrust.

One approach to balancing flexibility and inclusivity with clarity, predictability and accountability, is establishing a shared set of expectations and protocols for designing the process for making a decision as the need arises.

Try this one on for size:

When you think you need to make a decision, ask:

  1. How big a decision is this?
  2. Do I have the authority to make a decision at this level?
  3. Do I have the authority/responsibility to ensure the outcome?
  4. Do I have enough information?  If not, who has it?
  5. Who else does this impact?  What role, if any, do they need to play in the decision-making?
  6. Who do I need support from to implement this?  What role, if any, do they need to play in the decision-making?
  7. Is there an existing forum or process I can/should use to get or give information about this or to make a collaborative decision?
  8. Urgency:  What is the timeline for this decision? (Is this a hair-on-fire moment? When does this decision really need to be made?)
  9. What are the costs of deciding quickly vs. waiting/involving more people? Can I/we make part of the decision now and wait for more input/info/involvement to do the rest?  Would that be useful?
  10. How and when does the final decision get made?
  11. How do I/we communicate that decision — from whom, to whom, in what format?
  12. What assumptions am I making?  With whom should I check those assumptions?

This seems like a lot of steps, but actually, these are all questions we either are already asking or should be to avoid costly mistakes and, for most decisions, it’s a quick process.  This protocol can also be used to check existing decision-making systems to see whether they need to be modified.

Try It Out

Think about a decision you need to make (or made recently but felt the process didn’t work well). Walk through these questions, by yourself, or with your team.

  • How clear are you about the answers to all these questions?
  • How much consensus do you think you have (within your team, in the full organization) about the answers to these questions?  It’s important to test the assumptions you have about this (as in #12 above).
  • Does answering these questions give you more clarity about the decision-making process you used or need to create?
  • Does it change the process you think you might use (or wish you’d used)?  In what ways?
  • How does it feel to use this process?

If some version of this protocol becomes a shared expectation in your organization, you will likely find that many of the problems you have experienced with decision-making processes are eliminated, and the new systems that rise from using this protocol work better than the old ones.

Join the conversation…

I’d love to hear about what comes up for you in response to this article – experiences, questions, observations, etc.  You’ll find a comments section at the bottom of this page.

Pass it on!
If you know people you think might find this article useful, please feel free to forward this newsletter to them using the link at the bottom. Thanks.

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Podcast: Moving from Complaints to Collaboration

I did a one-hour version of my Moving from Complaints to Collaboration workshop as a PCC-sponsored Lunch and Learn at the Multnomah County Library on February 9th.  The Library makes these workshops available as podcasts, so you can listen here if you are interested.

You will also find my workshop on Creative Problem Solving  there.

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Looking for in-house training designed to meet the specific needs of your staff or board? I specialize in providing unorthodox, effective training that gives you powerful new tools to address the goals and challenges you are actually facing.

What People Say (from workshop evaluations):

”A very different way of viewing and dealing with difficulties.
It was rewarding and had very good results.”

“(provided)…new paths toward solutions – clearing away the clutter”

 “Gives you tangible tools to use on your own.”

 “I have gone to the Thursday lectures at the library for years and
I have to say you are the best speaker I have ever heard.”

You’ll find more about my approach to training on the website. Please contact me to talk about your needs and what I can offer.

Featured Training: Moving from Complaints to Collaboration

Complaints — our own and other people’s — feel like burdens and shut us down.  Learn simple, effective ways to shift your own approach, and your organization, team, or relationship, from a dynamic of complaint to a dynamic of collaboration.

The enthusiastic response to my recent workshop on Moving from Complaints to Collaboration at the Multnomah County Library has inspired me to offer this piece of the Making It Work workshop as a stand-alone piece for organizations and events. Could your organization or conference use a workshop that will give you concrete tools for shifting from a culture of complaints and resistance to one of collaboration and creativity? 

I’m offering a one-hour version of this workshop for $125 inside the Portland Metro Region (outside the region I add travel expenses). It is an inspiring and practical introduction to the framework and two key tools, and will give participants what they need to start making changes. Longer versions that provide more opportunity for practice and application to existing organizational challenges are also available.

You can lock in the price by getting the training scheduled by March 15th – it can happen anytime in 2012.

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Do you feel like you are pushing boulders uphill?

Get a New Perspectives Organizational Boulders Assessment

I offer a free, 90 minute organizational assessment in which you’ll get:

  • New perspectives and insights into what’s causing many of the challenges to effective teamwork and leadership development in your organization (where you are pushing boulders uphill when you don’t have to be);
  • New tools you can use immediately to address some of the core causes of your organization’s internal challenges;
  • A renewed sense of what is possible, and renewed energy for making needed shifts happen; and
  • A list of next steps for making your organization’s internal work easier and more effective.

If you are interested in setting up a Boulders Assessment, please contact me.

Subscribing and Unsubscribing

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© Tasha Harmon, February 2012.  All rights reserved.

 You are invited to share this eNewsletter with friends and colleagues as long as it stays in tact, with all acknowledgements and contact information in place.  If you’d like to reprint an article from my eNewsletter, written permission is required.  Please do contact me about this if you are interested.  Thank you.

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