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Entries in Indecision (1)

Monday
Mar052012

Indecision

In this guest post, Matt Ferm shares some observations around what drives good decisions.

High performance IT management, staff, and organizations know how to make decisions.  They are capable of quickly evaluating a situation, understanding decision criteria, assessing risk, and turning decision into action.  They produce results.

As infrastructure and operations consultants we see many IT organizations struggle to get projects, vendors, new employees, and purchases approved.  We consistently see this in the data center co-location selection process.  IT departments decide to migrate their in-house data centers to external co-location providers, have us conduct an RFP, find the right vendor, and then “shift to neutral” when it comes time for executive management to make a decision.  So, where do they go wrong?

IT organization tend to weigh the “what” (i.e., generators, cooling, etc.) higher than the “how.”  We tend to get distracted by “shiny objects” rather than understanding our users and decision makers.  We forget to ask ourselves the following questions before starting down the path of proposing something new:

  • Who needs to make the decision?
  • For each of those individuals, what is their criteria and process for making a decision?
  • How do you take facts and feelings and make them actionable?
  • What is a realistic timeframe for the decision?

When designing solutions, we have been taught to collect user requirements, create a design, build, test, and implement.  Decision making is no different.  Understanding the decision makers and their priorities is the equivalent of requirements gathering.  Determining the process for decision making is design, and turning facts and figures into actionable results is the build.  Effective decision making requires these steps before evaluating solutions.

Suggestions for improved decision making are:

  • Early selection of decision makers and understanding the difference between your decision makers and “the decision makers”
  • Receive approval from decision makers on a process and timeframe for decision making
  • Insure the desired business outcome is relevant to the decision makers (a data center co-location decision is the same as an office lease to the CFO)
  • Select one decision maker and pre-sell your proposal as a test to see how others will react
  • Never use numbers (spreadsheets) to sell an idea.  Numbers should support a solid business case
  • No one likes being pushed to make a decision.  Set realistic timeframes and expect iteration.
  • Prepare for and do not over-react to the “devil’s advocate”
  • Identify your harshest critic and target your “sale” to them.  Convince them and the rest will follow.

When a decision does not go my way (and I know my proposed solution is correct), I see it as my failure for not being able to convince someone of my beliefs.  In the end, your ability to effectively communicate opportunities and costs is what will lead to quicker decisions.  Stay objective and put yourself in the place of the person making the decision, and you will find yourself on the path to your desired outcome.