Group Decision Making

To increase the value of a business, there needs to be an established decision-making structure and the resulting policy-making decisions should be documented, communicated, and understood by the executives. It should be a group process.

To make the best decision-making process, a small group of diversely informed individuals should aggregate their judgments and provide that wisdom to the decision-makers charged with determining and setting forth the policy. This group should be formed to include the elements of diversity, independence, and decentralization. In a corporation generally, this group will involve the board of directors, sometimes supplemented by a board of advisors. But in a closely-held business or a limited liability company or other entity, the ownership and policy-making roles will not be with separate individuals and the boundaries of ownership, management, and policy may not be defined. In these situations, advisory boards with members outside the business may help keep the proper perspective in the policy or planning process. Advisory positions may be informal and usually will not involve the liability of a director’s position on a board of directors.

The elements of good strategy – the right people, disciplined dialogue, empiricism, creativity, documentation, and reasonable goals – are all necessary. The business strategic planning process is a series of decisions. These decisions are best made utilizing the input of policy group members (who have diversity, independence, and decentralization) articulating a distinctive and published value proposition along with written judgments concerning planning problems. A collection of these written judgments will constitute a plan. The plan will be executed by the executive officers of the business.

To achieve quality, what decisions must be made in an excellent manner?

First, there must be a distinctive value proposition propounded as a matter of policy. Which needs will the business service, which customers, and at what price? This should be a position that is distinct from competing propositions.

Second, the action plan for executives must contemplate and enhance the value proposition. Will the products be distinctive, so that higher margins are realized? Are operations to be accomplished so that lowers costs are realized resulting in lower prices? The action plan must place the value proposition in a meaningful perspective for the executives who must accomplish the action plan.

Third, are choices between options defined and trade-offs made to enhance the value proposition? Executives cannot implement the strategy and enhance the value proposition without a thorough understanding of the plan. Accepting limits is evidence of adherence to the value proposition, which rarely allows a business to be all things to all customers or clients. It is as important to choose what not to do as well as select what is important to do. Policy makers will not be making the trade-offs, rather it will be the executives who must know the strategy and exercise proper discretion.

Fourth, how do the decisions interact? Part of the decision-making process is understanding where intelligent choices conflict. One adjustment is what to do and what not to do, and another adjustment is how to fit the choices to work together for the value proposition. The better the fit, the greater the strength of the plan. Not all the conflicts can be discerned ahead of implementation, but many can. Policymakers and executives working together can provide a cohesive implementation of the strategy. Moreover, this experience will be the basis for continual reconsideration and revision of the action plan.

Fifth, change is double-edged. Often change is difficult to initiate, but it is as dangerous to change too frequently, especially for reactive or poorly thought-out reasons. Change must be determined by consideration of unique periods of turbulence, negative aspects of change, and costs of implementation.

The better the decision-making at both the policy and executive levels, the more value is added to the business.