Decision making is the lifeblood of any organization. If you think about it decisions are the most important deliverable generated by almost every project, team, or individual in an enterprise. So why don’t we see or hear more about the nature of decision making and the elements that make it happen.

Two things got me going down this path, first someone was telling me how badly his organization was at making decisions, lots of talk and no action, or decisions made only to be reversed by the next level up the hierarchy. And of course there is the “no decision” decision.

The other catalyst for this post was Stowe Boyd’s post Balancing the ideas of many with the decisions of few.

After some thought, I have settled on a simple (maybe simplistic) model of decision making that may make making decsions easier. Here it is, there are two parts to decision making:

  • Gathering
  • Choosing

Thats it. And I think where we so often get into trouble is that we are gathering when we should be choosing (e.g. the ongoing debate and questioning and action items in meetings that were ostensibly scheduled to reach agreement) and we are choosing when we should be gathering (e.g. a client walks into your office and says “we should have a blog” out of the blue).

I think that by clearly understand when you are choosing or gathering AND understanding when you should be choosing or gathering could greatly improve any organization’s ability to make decisions. The processes of gathering and choosing are very different and we need to implement different mechanisms for each part of the process.

Segway to social media… Wikis, blogs, RSS, etc. are the quintessential tools for gathering. Used in this way, these tools can greatly facilitate the decision making process. Just be careful trying to turn social computing tools into the silver bullet for decision making, because they are not well equiped to handle the choosing side of the equation.

Let’s make sure we use social computing tools for their highest and best use, and not as a cure-all.