The impact of poorly shared decisions is often so painful that many avoid them at all costs, ensuring someone always has final decision rights. You can go one step further by deploying decision-making frameworks to help the best ideas win instead of the most powerful people.
This is particularly applicable at organizations like JPMorgan which just named Marianne Lake and Jennifer Piepszak as joint heads of the consumer and community bank while pitting them against each other in the race to succeed Jamie Dimon.
There are five ways to make decisions:
- My decision on my own (Recipe for ignorance and disaster)
- My decision with your input (Preferred)
- Shared decision (Messy, complicated, stressful, inefficient.)
- Your decision with my input (Preferred)
- Your decision on your own (Recipe for ignorance and disaster)
Frameworks reduce the messiness, complication, stress, and inefficiencies to aid effectiveness.
They start with rules: if or when X, then Y. When it gets dark, then turn on the lights.
You can make those rules as robust as you need. In general, you’ll likely want more general rules for more general decisions with less impact, and more specific rules for more specific decisions with greater impact. For example:
- When you think it’s dark enough, turn on the lights in your house – more general.
- When it’s 30 minutes after sunset, turn on your car headlights – more specific.
Another way to think about this is the difference between policies, guidelines and attitudes.
- POLICY: A mandatory, definite course or method of action that all must follow.
- GUIDELINE: A preferred course or method of action that all should generally follow.
- ATTITUDE: One’s mental position, feeling or emotion toward a fact or state.
In our example above, the 30-minute after sunset framework is a policy. (Actually, it’s a law.) Turning on the lights in your house when it’s dark enough is a guideline. An attitude would be to leverage existing resources to keep the house light enough.
The Thinking Behind Frameworks
For those sharing decisions, the actual policy, guideline or attitude in the framework is less important than the thinking and discussion that goes into agreeing on them. It’s about what Daniel Kahneman describes as deliberate thinking – a deliberate, controlled, effortful, rule-governed way of thinking through things.
The fundamental idea here is that those making shared decisions should work through a shared framework before they have to make the actual decisions. This allows them to do this without the stress and emotions of decision deadlines.
As simplified BRAVE framework can serve as a starting point:
- Environment – Where to play? – Choose which decisions are going to be shared.
- Values – What matters and why? – Lock in underlying mission, vision and values, and work through the impact of this decision on those – intent.
- Attitude – How to win? – This is the heart of the game, getting at the decision criteria including the data that will drive the decision and rules.
- Relationships – How connect? – Clarify how you’re going to communicate before, during and after a shared decision, including your rules of engagement with each other and others.
- Behaviors – What impact? – Decide in advance how you each of you and others should behave after a shared decision.
You’re going to get a lot of decisions wrong together. The “Current Best Thinking” approach can help you fix those wrong decisions faster. Most importantly, don’t lock into your decisions forever.
As Alexander Pope said, “No one should be ashamed to admit they were wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that they are wiser today than they were yesterday.”
Give yourselves permission to help each other get wiser. It’s not about changing your mind or going back on your word. It’s about learning and improving together wherever the new ideas come from – even if you’re pitted against them in a race to CEO.