Predecisional frameworks

What can leaders in organisations do to improve the decision making capability of their organisation?

Blog 21 media Dilbert

So, does this mean anything? Since this is a Dilbert cartoon and we expect it to satirise daily life within large companies, it’s easy for us to imagine that Dilbert’s disappointment must somehow be the result of the Steering Committee’s incompetence or laziness. But could there be a good reason to delay making a decision in order to agree a “predecisional framework” for making that decision?

A case for standard approaches to decision-making

I conducted an action research project within a large organisation and the results from the diagnostic phase reveal that using standard approaches to support decision-making, such as frameworks or guiding principles, has a benefit for both the perceived quality of the decision-making process and, more importantly, for the likelihood of making a decision and for the perceived quality of the decision made.

However, if you are or were someone working in a large organisation and needing to make decisions in collaboration with your colleagues, would you want to spend time agreeing a “predecisional framework” for every decision? Why not instead adopt an approach to decision-making that is broad enough and flexible enough to be applied in all situations?

I believe that the ELECTIA approach to decision-making has this breadth and flexibility and so, in the second phase of the action research project, I asked the participants to apply the ELECTIA approach to support decision-making within the organisation and to collect data on the impact of doing so.

The benefits of the ELECTIA approach in action

Comparing the data gathered in the two phases of the action research, the project participants reported the following differences between the first phase (no interventions, or ‘baseline’) and the second phase (active interventions to support decision-making):

  • An increase from just over 60% to nearly 90% in the proportion of decisions where the participants rated the process of making the decision as ‘good’.
  • A reduction from 20% to just 2% in the proportion of decisions where the participants rated the process of making the decision as ‘poor’.
  • A reduction in the proportion of decisions that were not made from 15% to 5%.
  • An increase from 82% to 95% in the proportion of decisions where the participants rated the decision that was made as ‘good’.
  • A total elimination of decisions that the participants rated as ‘poor’.

Back to the Boardroom

So, poor Dilbert didn’t get a decision on his project because the Steering Committee spent its time agreeing a predecisional framework rather than making the decision. Meanwhile, use of the ELECTIA approach to support decision-making led to a reduction by two thirds in the proportion of times that a decision wasn’t reached. Dilbert might wish that his Steering Committee had adopted the ELECTIA approach.

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