Six steps for senior management to focus on the most important decisions

Decisions are often seen as isolated, at times reactive actions prompted by a set of circumstances. Decision makers almost feel it is a part of their skill set to cope with an onslaught of decisions, rapidly taken to deal with situations. This can develop into a culture of “fire-fighting”, where bigger picture decisions receive an insufficient amount of time.

Instead, decisions should be seen as a work-stream where there is every possibility to create a conscious Decision Agenda in any Senior Team, an essential part of achieving quality decision making. Here below are the six key steps to assist the senior management team in staying focused on important decisions:

  1. Consider decisions as a workflow: The team first needs to understand the range of decisions they are likely to face over the coming months. It can quickly become clear that each member of the team has a different list of decisions to be addressed, with is a considerable lack of agreement as to who could take the range of decisions being discussed. In one case, 80% of the decisions needing consideration were felt to be only addressable by the next level of management.
  1. Understand the character of the decisions to be taken: Once identified, these decisions then need to be categorized according to a range of characteristics which helps determine the most appropriate approach. The greater the degree of organizational and analytical complexity, the more involved the decision making process should be. This soon makes apparent which decisions are simple and straightforward and which require more attention.
  1. Share and Delegate: Collecting the range of decisions across the team also allows the entire team to be aware of the decisions that their fellow members feel need to be addressed. In some cases duplications can be removed and clusters of similar decisions combined into a more coordinated, larger decision. The CEO is then able to reassure the team that a whole cluster of decisions can quite comfortably be taken at a departmental level, which may be a revelation to the people concerned. Instead of relying on getting an answer from “the boss” the team is empowered to handle a whole range of tasks.
  1. Understand the timing: Not all decisions are to be taken immediately. By defining 3, 6 and 9 month time horizons, decisions that are not immediately needed can be taken at the appropriate time.
  1. Focus on the Few: Very quickly it will become clear which decisions are the most important decisions that need to be taken, the type of decisions that need a considered and structured approach to come to a Quality Decision. Of significant magnitude with high levels of organizational and analytical complexity, these decisions warrant the coordinated attention of the senior team. While some of these may be known prior to the creation of a decision agenda (particularly to the CEO), creating the bandwidth and gaining alignment across the team makes it possible to devote the needed amount of time to address the decisions correctly. Most organizations will have the majority of decisions classified as “Significant” when considering organizational and analytical complexity, but defining the most efficient and effective approach has an enormous impact on the way an organization works and frees senior time for attention to the “Strategic” and high impact decisions.
  1. Take the first step: Creating a conscious Decision Agenda ensures the senior team understand the needs of each of its members, is able to spot clusters of potential decisions that can be delegated and handled at the departmental level and identifies where to invest significant time.

Managing your decision agenda

















Building this structured process only requires a day at most of management time. This investment then ensures a quick, simple and effective approach to achieve a quality decision, and ensures the precious time of senior management is focused on the biggest impact decisions.

Peter Hopper, Partner and Managing Director – 13 January 2017