7 Questions That Support Strategic Decision-Making
A few nights ago my husband and I went out on a date - well, not exactly a date - though it was a Saturday night without our children. We were on a quest for the perfect basketball net because it was the only thing on our children’s wishlist.
For months they’d campaigned consistently and persistently (occasionally at top volume) for their holy grail of kid-dom, an 8ft basketball hoop. It seemed like a rite of passage - like sleeping in a big-kid bed or learning to ride a bike. And I have to admit I loved the idea of my 3 littles someday spending hours practicing layup after layup, shooting hoops with one another, or playing pickup with the kids in the neighborhood.
So, on a rainy night in the suburbs, we were driving 20 min to the store to buy a basketball net on date night. And as we drove, we shared our intel: what other parents had said at playdates, the net they tried with cousins at Thanksgiving, and the gads of info I’d cobbled together by parsing what felt like a million online reviews.
I was struck by the fact that we were putting more time and thoughtfulness into this decision than we had our home inspection, paint color for the kitchen, or even my last laptop purchase. We were treating this like an investment.
Think Longer Term
After the purchase (and a bit more shopping), we slipped into a nearby restaurant and gratefully sank into the last two empty seats near the bar. Our conversation turned to the basketball net. This one decision had opened up Pandora’s box of other decisions we now had to make.
- Where would we put the net?
- Do we need to remove the big pine beside the driveway?
- If we went to the trouble of removing the pine, how long did we really see ourselves staying in this house?
- What about the school we were touring a couple of towns over on Wednesday?
- How might the extra driving impact our daily life?
- What would be the best choice for our kid's education?
Like the links of a paper chain garland, one decision led to another and another.
The questions we asked allowed us to think longer term and more strategically. And the chance to do it together led to different outcomes (and increased understanding) of where we both stood about some major life decisions.
Shift Your Perspective
This is often what clients experience during their strategy and coaching sessions.
Some clients come when they’re struggling with a big decision. For example, we had an executive who was considering a possible life change. After listening to him open up, we asked if he was moving away from something instead of moving towards something. That one question shifted his perspective and opened up a new world of opportunities.
We began to talk meaningfully about what he wanted for the future of his organization, his work partnership, and even his life. He reflected this week about how grateful he was to be able to reorient his thinking and approach his decision strategically.
Consider The Consequences
Some clients show up after the decision has been made. Maybe they chose to decentralize a function or acquire a company and what looked good on paper wasn’t well thought out. Internally, we call this “ready, fire, aim” thinking. Suddenly, you’re facing unintended consequences and unforeseen challenges. Together, we have to work to right a ship that’s listing (or even sinking) rather than steering it in the correct direction to begin with.
Strategic decision-making means less time putting out fires.
AMANDA KATHLEEN ZINKE, MBA, MSOD, PCC
CEO & FOUNDER OF LEAD BEE LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
Kickoff Your Strategic Decision-Making Process By Asking Yourself These Questions…
# 1 - Did you consider all the PROS and CONS of that decision?
A pros/cons list might be a great place to start. Some of our clients love these and even create color-coded Excel sheets for their lists. If you love the trusty old pros/cons list, great! If not, keep reading…
# 2 - What are the SHORT-TERM BENEFITS VS COSTS?
What type of resources will be needed up front? What else could you do with those resources? What immediate value are you and the organization getting? How does it affect various stakeholders?
# 3 - Is there a specific TIMEFRAME you need to consider?
Is there a deadline? If so, why? When and how will this be implemented? Who will manage the decision-making and then the implementation? By the time this pays dividends, will the market opportunity have passed you by?
# 4 - What is the LONG-TERM VALUE?
Will there be lasting value? What (if any) type of upfront and continued resources will need to be applied? What will you do if it’s no longer relevant?
# 5 - Is there room for FLEXIBILITY?
Can this be easily undone, shifted, or upgraded?
# 6 - Are there any OBSTACLES?
What might pop up to get in the way? How can you plan around it?
# 7 - Can you make ADJUSTMENTS?
How and when will you debrief, measure success, and possibly adjust?
These seven questions can be a great place to start when you’re making decisions because when you take the time to examine a decision from different perspectives, you give yourself the opportunity to approach it strategically.
If you’d like to know more about how we support clients in strategic decision-making (or how the basketball net turned out), feel free to reach out to us.