It all comes down to your decision-making process

Dec 07, 2021

I'm fascinated by how decisions are made (or not made) within companies. Of course, everyone is making decisions, but how many are correct? For example, I recently worked with a client on a successful marketing campaign. 

Countless decisions had to be made along the way and the client's marketing team executed well on most of them. As a result, the campaign was a success as it drove engagement and a significant amount of positive comments. 

The lessons from this campaign aren't about its specific details — the number of emails, the content of the emails, or even the campaigns' goals. The lessons are the process on which those decisions were made and how to replicate them in the future.

What Are Your Greatest Hits?

Look back at previous successes in your company or team. What stands out? You may see patterns in marketing channels or the messaging that you used. However, you should be looking at how those successes came to be and the decisions you made.

  • Who made the critical decisions?
  • What decisions worked out and which ones didn't?
  • Did some decisions take longer than they should have?

When I meet a company, I want to understand how they currently make decisions. Can anyone make them, or are they all made by one person? Is there a process for making common decisions? Best of all, are they aware of how decisions are made?

Any marketing campaign can be boiled down to a series of decisions. The budget, the audience, and the colour choices in the email are all examples of decisions. Some are trivial, and some are vital, but all decisions follow a similar process. If you struggle with the trivial, then you will struggle with the critical.

Marketing teams, in particular, are surrounded by choices. There are always new channels, new ideas, and opportunities. Learning how to sort through them comes down to making the right decisions (and assumptions).

What's Your Decision-Making Process?

There are countless models for decision-making. Some have 5 steps; others have seven steps. I have always found them too complicated, which led me to create my own 3 step model. I call it the 3 O’s, and it stands for Outcomes, Options, and Obstacles.

Outcomes are the goals that you hope to achieve. A revenue-based outcome is quite different from a branding outcome. Each outcome gives you different possibilities and constraints.

Options are the paths you could take to get to the desired outcome. There are always options for achieving an outcome; it's just a matter of uncovering them.

Obstacles are the roadblocks that could derail your entire plan. You can preempt common roadblocks and figure out preventive actions. Besides global pandemics, there are few surprises that affect companies.

I don't claim my model is the best. I encourage clients to take my model and tweak it based on their approach. You might remove or add steps. Perhaps you'll rename them to something that makes more sense to you. The point is to have a crystal process that you're aware of.

I have met marketing executives who are excellent at making decisions, but they claim that they don't have a process. It "just comes to them." In reality, there's always a series of steps that we are following; we may not be aware of them.

The Biggest Lever: Helping Others Decide

Archimedes famously said that if he had a lever, he could move the world. Learning how to make decisions effectively is a big win for any individual, but helping others do the same is the bigger lever.

Executives and leaders should be thinking about how to help their team make better decisions. Even major decisions could be delegated. Netflix is well known for its culture built on radical candor and accountability. Decisions on content purchases aren't made by executives but by the people closest to the deal. Anyone in Netflix could sign million-dollar contracts if they have the right evidence to support their decision.

To help others, you need to figure out how you make decisions. This is where you figure out your process and fine-tune it. You can then help others determine their process and work with them to improve it. Over time, more responsibility could be given to all members of your team.

At the end of the day, you can look back at all the decisions that you made. Ideally, you're getting most of them right. Like any muscle, we have to work out to get better. If you're interested in learning more, I'm hosting a CMA seminar on the key ideas from this article on Feb 23, 2022. Better decisions start by choosing the right training.

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Ruben Ugarte

Data and Decision Strategist & Author of Data Mirage Utility




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