When it comes to making “successful” decisions, that is, decisions that achieve their intended purpose, especially important, strategic ones, the track record is somewhat dismal. Perhaps I’m being too kind. In fact, research shows that at least 50% of all such decisions fail to accomplish what the decision makers had hoped for.
There are many reasons why this is the case. In this blog, I focus on what is often the ultimate challenge for decision makers—IMPLEMENTATION. And, within that topic, I address the issue of communicating an important, strategic decision to others within the organization–particularly those who will be directly affected. Failure to pay attention to this leads to failed decisions.
Typically, here’s what happens. A small, select group of leaders spend significant time working through the process of making a decision that will affect the organization and it’s various constituents. They gather information, analyze the situation, debate the facts, consider various alternatives, and so on.
When they finally reach consensus on what to do, they’ve done so much assessment and evaluation of the issue that they have confidence the right decision has been made–one that is clearly defensible. So, when the decision is announced, that group of leaders doesn’t understand why others in the organization (who haven’t had the advantage of hearing all the dialogue, debate, etc. that preceded the decision) respond so negatively. John Stanko and I describe this same scenario in the L.E.A.D.E.R.S Model discussed in our book, The Leadership Carol.
How can you avoid this type of decision debacle. Authors Phillip Clampitt and Lee Williams offer some advice. They do so in what they frame as “Decision Downloading.”
First of all, decision makers often make two mistakes that lead to poor communication of an important decision:
- They fail to make clear who has the responsibility to communicate and don’t spend the time necessary to create a successful communication plan.
- They choose to protect organizational members by not disclosing the issues they are addressing during the decision making process. The result is a decision announcement that leads to even greater anxiety and uncertainty and lack of confidence in the ability of the decision makers.
In contrast, a “robust” communication plan, according to the authors, has four stages:
- Planning–determining how employees, especially different groups of employees, will respond to the announcement.
- Announcing–choosing a credible leader to make the announcement; linking the decision to the organization’s vision and mission; explaining the rationale for making the decision; discussing both the impact on the organization and on employees; and using a variety of methods and venues to communicate the decision.
- Monitoring–ascertaining how employees are reacting to the decision and giving enough time for employees to make sense of it.
- Responding–answering employee concerns; further explaining the reason for the decision; and correcting incorrect perceptions.
Following these steps can increase the potential success of decision implementation, according to the authors. They state, “The most effective communicators believe that cultivating an understanding of the decision making process…engenders the most important feature of sustained success: trust” (emphasis mine).
Dr. James Dittmar is the Founder, President, and CEO of the 3Rivers Leadership Institute which began in 2014. Prior to this Jim founded the award-winning Geneva College M.S. in Organizational Leadership Program in 1995 and served as Chair of the Department of Leadership Studies and Director of the M.S. in Organizational Leadership Program until 2015. Should you have any questions, comments or feedback, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.