The game of chess can provide us with some lessons for decision making. Chess is all about understanding and predicting how your move will be met by your opponent. Great chess players run through an analysis of the potential ramifications of their move and what the consequences might be.

Good decision making does the same thing. Every decision has ramifications for others and, if we are not careful, unintended consequences. Wisdom is to try to understand and predict how our decision will be met by others and the potential ramifications of that decision. Decisions impact people so wise leaders try to understand that impact before they announce their decision.

Some of the questions to consider when one is making a decision are:
  • Who will be impacted?
  • What are the potential downsides?
  • Why might it be resisted and by whom?
  • What is your strategy for dealing with that resistance?
  • What kind of preparation or explanation will alleviate resistance and even garner support?
  • If someone made this decision for you what would you want to know?
  • Have you run the decision by trusted colleagues who can give you a read on potential "unintended consequences?"
  • Do you need to prepare people by letting them know what you are thinking and allow for input?

The goal is to be aware of both consequences and response so that you can be strategic in rolling out a decision that has impact on others and minimize the downsides. The larger the decision the more critical it is to take the time to think through how it will be received.

Where it is possible a best practice is to tell staff or your board what you are thinking of doing and why so that they can give you any feedback before you pull the trigger. Giving them the opportunity to dialogue with you beforehand helps them process what is coming and may give you valuable information that might either cause you to tweak the decision or know how to sell the decision.

Another best practice is to talk with a colleague outside your organization who has not skin in the game and let them ask you the questions you may not have thought of.

The key is not to be surprised - in chess and in decision making.

  • May 05, 2009
  • Category: News
  • Comments: 0
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