Magazine article New Zealand Management

Decisions ... Decisions!

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Decisions ... Decisions!

Article excerpt

Hmmmm ... healthy water or stimulating coffee? Would that all decisions in life or in business were that clear cut. The reality is messier, often more brutal and seldom consensual. In fact, as Paul Gordon points out, striving for consensus can be a frustrating waste of time.

"The reality is that you can't change people's views if they're well entrenched but you can get them to support the outcome of a decision-making process. We don't strive for consensus--we strive for alignment behind the decision that's been made. And getting everybody behind it is more important than the actual decision itself in many ways because it really generates the power of the organisation in the same direction."

Gordon is something of an expert on how groups of people make decisions --his company helps a range of private and public sector organisations in the United Kingdom and the United States make complex and often very curly decisions.

"Something we did for the Department of the Environment in the UK last year was work on the question of 'where to put nuclear waste'. It was one of the largest public consultation processes ever undertaken there--going out to everyone from environmentalists to nuclear energy companies, public authorities and community groups."

His company Catalyze built the decision model that brought together all the arguments and the process did actually achieve alignment--in record time.

The process his company offers is based on techniques developed over many years by the London School of Economics and utilises a combination of software and social process. The first stage involves capturing all the elements of the decision--what's important to the company--not just for this particular question but in terms of its overall strategic direction. What are they trying to do as a business?

"As you can imagine, that sometimes meets with blank looks so we have to work on that bit first."

All that gets fed into the software model which is, says Gordon, all very transparent--not some black box cleverness. More a way of capturing all the relevant elements--and tracking their subsequent chunking down into what he calls "decision criteria".

"That's a list of very specific things that if met by a decision or if the right combination of them is met really reveals the crux of what is the right decision. …

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