Blog - Strategy

Why Decisions Fail- #3: The purpose for a decision is seldom clear.

Posted by Tim Lewko on Jan 10, 2014 11:10:00 AM
Almost all of us have all been in a meeting where one of our colleagues arrives late, sits down beside us, and passes a note which reads “what is the key objective here today?”.
If you have not been in a meeting such as the above- congratulations as you are in the minority of the minorities.  For the rest of us the question is what can be done to improve the situation of meetings where intelligent committed participants are not even sure why they are attending?


One of the key reasons meetings are held is to take decisions.  Management are typically rewarded by shareholders and compensation committees for making better decisions than their peer sets.  Regrettably the better decisions can often be attributed to luck as opposed to clear process.

In this blog I will touch on the first step of effective decision making process which is to state the purpose and make it visible.

While the first step in the decision making process is to “state the purpose”, this step is often overlooked or not made visible.  The reason is that many people assume that the purpose is clear to all or don’t want to take the time for what may be considered a redundant step.

Whether running a meeting in person, facilitating a board session, or chairing a video conference, you can ask three easy questions which will test the alignment of your group and ensure the decision making purpose is clear:

1. What is the ultimate purpose of this decision?

2. Why do we want to make this decision?

3. What outcomes do we need to achieve?

Once a clear and concise answer to the three questions can be labeled as “decision purpose” the chance of anyone being unclear on the decision purpose will be reduced and it is possible to move on to the next step in effective decision making.

If the step above is objected to because “we don’t have time for this” or any similar phrases, this is a red flag that the decision making purpose is not clear- if it is the step above will take less than three minutes to complete and you will be well on your way to the next steps in a successful management decision.