I recently read the book Crucial Conversations, when I came across a section that hit me as being very applicable to the purchased services sourcing process. It offered a new way of looking at how decisions are made and what factors are important in determining the best method.
Let’s review the methods for decision making, their strengths, and how to apply each to make the best decisions for you.
Methods of Decision Making
The Command method is when decisions are made without involving others. This can also be called authoritative and is, of course, the fastest option because you aren’t delayed by other people offering their opinions or discussing other solutions.
Emergencies justify the command method, but most other decisions require buy-in from others. The most common person to make Command Decisions in the workplace are those in an executive or leadership role, as well as decisions in their personal life. These are also often the riskiest because alternatives often aren’t considered.
The Consult method is when a person invites input from others but ultimately one person makes the decision. This option takes more time than Command because other opinions are considered and alternatives can be proposed, making it less risky. It is the most passive way to involve others and can be used to make people feel like they were included in the decision (even though they ultimately don’t have a say in the final decision). In the workplace, these are common across colleagues at the same level position and can be used for political gain. In your personal life, this is a very effective way to gut-check with those who know you best to ensure you’re making the right decision.
The Vote method is when options are discussed across the group and then a vote is called, where the most favorable option to the most people is chosen. This can be called democratic as well because each person’s opinion is included in the final decision. Everyone who takes part in a vote assumes the responsibility of the decision equally, further reducing your risk of a bad decision. Vote is a great option for things that need to be upheld and executed by the group, which is why it is most common for boards of directors or senior leadership to use this method. As for time management, vote is effective because there is a finite time set for when the vote is over and the decision is made, preventing it from dragging out.
The Consensus method is when the group discusses the options and recommendations until everyone agrees to one course of action. As you can imagine, this is the hardest and most time consuming method because it requires different people with different motives to all agree on one. Time can often drag on due to a lack of agreement among stakeholders, a continuous discussion trying to persuade others to follow a specific option, and no set timeframe for when the decision will be made. Of course, once everyone is in agreement, the risk of the decision is significantly lower than one person making it. This method should be used sparingly solely based on the time implications of getting agreement across the group. It is also vital that communication that the decision has been made and agreed upon is blatantly obvious to those involved. Ask something like, “are we all in agreement that this is the best course of action and we will begin executing on it today?” to ensure everyone knows the decision is final and no one is misunderstood.
Since reading this, I’ve reconsidered the “how” in my decision making, and it helped me realize that I probably wasn’t always making the best decisions. Most of the time, I just make a decision to prevent stalling progress. Guilty. I now acknowledge that’s not usually the best method in the workplace. But how do you choose which method is right for the circumstances? Here are a few key questions to consider.
How to Choose Which Method of Decision Making to Use
1. Who cares?
Determine who genuinely wants to be involved in the decision along with those who will be affected. It’s not worth it to involve people who won't be impacted by the end decision. The Valify Marketplace is a decision accelerator for buyers and sellers in health care, and there are several ways it supports these methods at the appropriate times. Using the Valify Marketplace, healthcare providers able to invite contributors to your vendor selection project for collaboration and asynchronous work. Whether you’re a project manager, analyst, or even a part of the executive steering committee, it’s key to think about who all the stakeholders in a project might be.
2. Who knows?
Identify who has the expertise you need to make the best decision and encourage those people to weigh in. These individuals that hold the experience and information should be surveyed to identify the major pain points that your decision is impacting. The Valify Marketplace encourages users to interview those who would be impacted by the decisions to make sure you’re solving for the right thing. Requirements gathering is done by asking vendors to respond to how they can address those must-haves and lines up responses to be compared and evaluated side-by-side. All of the vendor communication happens across the platform, which saves you from having to email everyone individually and aggregate the responses yourself.
3. Who must agree?
Think of those whose cooperation you need to influence in any decisions you might make. It’s better to involve these people early than to surprise them later and suffer their resistance. The saying, “Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness,” doesn’t apply here. Getting buy-in early matters. These key stakeholders are able to be brought in to score vendor responses to the questions you asked of your end users. These supporters can have a meaningful impact on the decision by rating vendor responses in platform.
4. How many people is it worth involving?
Your goal should be to involve the fewest number of people possible - while still ensuring a quality decision and support from that group. Ask, “Do we have enough people to make a good choice? Will others have to be involved to gain their commitment?” Once you can answer those questions, you’ve found your team. Think too, about when your team may need to be temporarily augmented. For example, you may have your core group of stakeholders involved have the final say, but you may need clinical subject matter experts to weigh in on project definition or vendor requirements in their area of expertise. In the Valify Marketplace, this is easily done by building question sets per group of stakeholders, allowing them to score the areas they care about impacting and ignoring what isn’t pertinent.
On average, adults make roughly 35,000 decisions per day. Of course, most of those are subconscious. But for the handful of very important decisions made, here are the main points that you need to remember when choosing which method to use to make a decision.
- Don’t use the authoritative Command method when you need Consensus and agreement among the group. Don’t use Command for important decisions that need buy-in. Consensus or Voting on a course of action would be much more appropriate.
- Use the Consult method as a way to make efficient, informed decisions and gain ideas and support without delaying decision making.
- Use Vote if efficiency is the most important factor and when everyone agrees to support the outcome of the vote.
- Use Consensus when you truly need everybody’s buy-in to support an important decision.
- Communicate the method that will be used to make the decision with the decision team prior to making the decision and inform anyone affected by the decision how it was made. This is especially important for decisions that affect a lot of people and did have input from many people. Letting them know who supported the outcome is huge for getting buy-in.