Q: What strategies can I use when making decisions in the midst of conflicting perspectives?
A: Decisions and strategies are not answers unto themselves. Strategies are the derivatives of a vision or purpose. Choosing a strategy without expressing a direction or reason for your goal is like choosing a car engine without understanding the design of the vehicle housing it. Strategies are methodologies to outwit a competitor, shape a perspective of a leadership team, frame a market position, make visible a pattern of behavior or actions emerging from a plan.
Conduct an analysis of the different stakeholder perspectives. The leadership should share a common mission for the organization. This mission should be shared among the governing members of the enterprise and shared by the community of professionals employed to execute.
Decisions arise from needing to enhance and achieve a competitive advantage, optimize effectiveness or support a culture producing a dynamic workplace. Decisions move the organization and the stakeholders toward successful strategies. Most decisionmaking tools follow the plan-do-act-check cycle.
Plan what you want to achieve, but make sure you do have the acceptance of the stakeholder community. First, this is best achieved when the actions satisfy the stakeholders' needs and the pros and cons are made clear. Second, tell the stakeholders there are several actions they can take to achieve their desired strategies. Third, lead them in an exercise to define the best perceived actions. Finally, execute the agreed upon strategy then check if the stakeholders like the outcomes.
The heart of decisionmaking is assessing choices, so tools like fishbone diagraming, focus groups, lean analysis, Delphi techniques and affinity Post-it note charting help with identifying possible options. If data from your decision assessment tool engenders conflict between stakeholders, get feedback from allies and mentors on how to present the information. Chances are, someone can smooth out conflicting perspectives. Decisions drive actions, but they are derivative of strategic and political actions. Know stakeholders' needs and wants to make your decisionmaking more effective.
Ernest Owens is an assistant professor of management at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.