Lately I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of a simple question.
When I’m meeting with people and they are trying to solve problems, rather than jumping in to tell them how I might solve them or even asking them how they themselves are planning to solve them, I take one giant step back and ask, “What will your decision-making process look like as you attempt to arrive at a solution for this problem?” (Of course I try not to sound like a robot when I’m asking this question, but you get the idea.)
Each time I’ve used this question, it has led to some modifications in the proposed decision-making process. Often, that process needed to involve more input from more people, to move more slowly, to take into account more data, or simply — to end.
And talking about decision-making has some added bonuses.
It helps people to make better decisions not just once but many times. It helps me, as a “coach,” to know why people might be stuck in a certain performance pattern. And, last, it helps me to make my organization more transparent to the people whose daily decisions help it — hopefully — to thrive. On this last point: When you help to inform or upgrade someone’s decision-making process, you end up having to talk about all kinds of institutional stuff (for lack of a better word). This stuff could include information flow or architecture, politics, power dynamics, unspoken tension, relationships, competence, incompetence, money, meeting agendas — all the things that make a difference while not being written down in any manual.