Five Types of Decisions: A Practical Tool for the SI Leader

Five Types of Decisions Strategic InitiativesOne important role for the leader of a strategic initiative is the Chief Decision Architect. A good decision is one that enhances the strategic initiative’s alignment and commitment.  Here is the guiding principle:  

Fast and effective decisions lead to fast and effective program execution.  

This simple principle implies:  

  1. Decisions are a driver of performance. They involve decision makers and individuals who possess critical information.
  2. After decisions are made, people need to support the implementation of the decision. They often do not support implementation because they neither understand the decision or participated in it.
  3. There are consequences to implementing or failing to implement the decision. You are “standing at the crossroads” to use a blues-music metaphor.
  4. Leaders should be concerned about the quality and timing of decisions
  5. There are different types of decisions (because of the elements just listed) that require different decision making styles and tools
  6. Categorizing the decisions into types provides a way to make decision making more efficient and effective.

Still with me? There are five types of decisions involving, as listed in the table. The practical rule for the leader is this: Understand the type of decision being made, and then select the appropriate blending of discussion and participatory style

Type Action Suited for when
1 I decide and tell you Simple decisions where authority and accountability are needed. The authority (“I”) has the necessary information needed to make a quality decision and merely needs to tell (“you”).
2 We talk, I decide and tell you Simple decisions that affect others. Hence, the “we talk” allows the authority (“I”) to understand the possible impacts on others before making the decision.
3 We talk, We decide Complex decisions that require the understanding and support of others.  These are the strategic decisions that benefit from a full vetting by all stakeholders because their participation in the decision increases alignment and commitment for the decision. This is the only one of the five types of decisions that requires consensus*, as explained below.
4 We talk, you decide and tell the boss Decisions that are better made by experts or those closest to the situation.  In a type 4 decision, the authority figure has some information (“we talk”) that should be considered in the decision (“you decide”).
5 You decide and tell the boss Decisions where the expert or local person has all the information and authority needed to make the decision (“you decide”).

 * Effective Consensus   

Definition of consensus:  All individuals agree to support the implementation of the decision, even if they do not agree with the decision.  

Implications of this definition: 1) You need to define the decision making team exactly, and have complete participation of each decision maker and 2) You need an un-ambiguous way to recognize that consensus has been achieved.  I prefer to use the “thumbs up” criterion. I want to see each person to show their fist with the thumb pointed up as an agreement that they will support the implementation.  


Reasons why people like this tool:  

  • It is compact. There is not a lot to remember.
  • It reminds people of a commonsense idea: Some Decisions Require More Talk, Others Less
  • It improves speed by eliminating unnecessary information sharing and unrealistic expectations about involvement
  • It implies the situations where that teams can be productive and accountable
  • It supports the principles and rules in the introductory paragraphs of this post


Real-World Application  

Here is one example of how I have used this tool. I was coaching an IT advisory group composed of experts and stakeholders. The issues of advice versus policy arose. When could this group go ahead and implement their ideas, and when did it need to involve the organizations Managing Directors?  Neither group had the time (or the inclination) to be in constant contact with each other.  

I introduced this tool and explained that the Managing Directors would be the authority (“I” in the framework) and the advisory group would be the experts (the “we” in the framework).  Everyone agreed that this tool facilitated better performance by both groups.  

How do you think this tool can help you with your strategic initiatives?

Please bookmark with your social media. It is noticed and appreicated!


About Greg Githens

Author, How to Think Strategically (2019) Executive and leadership coach. Experience in driving change in Fortune 500 and mid-size companies through strategic initiatives and business transformation. Seminar leader and facilitator - high-impact results in crafting and delivering strategy, strategic initiatives, program management, innovation, project management, risk, and capturing customer requirements.
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6 Responses to Five Types of Decisions: A Practical Tool for the SI Leader

  1. Greg,

    I have used this tool that you taught us and it has been very effective.


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