Making decisions in complex environments is hard. The first choice a leader needs to make is the style of the decision-making process to apply. Fast or slow? The right answer depends on the type of decision that needs to be made and how much buy-in is needed from others to achieve a good outcome.
Jeff Bezos in his 2016 Amazon shareholder letter spoke about different decision types needing to be treated differently. He called out two types of decisions:
• Type 1 are high-risk, irreversible decisions that require slow and deliberate consideration with multiple stakeholders
• Type 2 are low-risk, reversible decisions that can be made quickly with the expectation that they may be wrong (but the impact will be inconsequential)
Competitive advantage is possible for those businesses who know how to make each decision the right way—and at the right speed.
Whichever type of decision you’re making, I would argue that how you make the decision is less important than how you communicate your thought process to others. Much like a math exam that asks for you to show your work to check your logical reasoning, if you don’t include the right information to bring others along with you, your recommendations can fall at the first hurdle.
That's because when we are faced with something we don't understand, our brain will often reject it or block it out. This is called cognitive dissonance. And it’s a killer for decision-making.
There is a simple answer to this that I'd like to share with you. It’s called the POWER model, and it’s a tool to help you get buy-in to your decision-making. Drawing inspiration from the GROW coaching model, POWER invites you to answer questions in a logical format to guide your audience toward an answer while avoiding cognitive dissonance along the way.
The POWER Model
Let’s take a look at what POWER stands for:
What is the problem you need to solve? Why is it important? What impact would solving the problem have on the team/business/product?
The most important part of any influential communication should be answering the question “why should you care?” This is most impactful if it’s also emotional and plays to the limbic decision-making part of our brain as Simon Sinek calls out in his book Start with Why. Really understand your audience and empathize with the things they care about (not what you think they should care about) and you’ll be off to a solid start.
What options have you considered to solve the problem? What’s the impact of doing nothing? How did you arrive at these options?
For the most part, we make decisions on autopilot, choosing the easiest option or the one we’ve seen work in the past. This part of the model encourages you to think broader than the obvious choice. You don’t need to explore every option, just a selection that shows that you’ve considered alternatives. A high, medium and low approach with risk, reward or effort as your axis should be enough to show your thought process and get buy-in from your audience.
What data points do you have to inform the decision? What insights can you draw from that data? What do you not know?
Today’s businesses have more data than they know what to do with, but quite often it’s presented without interpretation. Show your data, describe what it means and draw attention to the parts that are relevant to the decision. Be ruthless about what you include. Tell a story with numbers. But don’t stretch the truth. Be honest about what you don’t know, too, so the audience is aware of the risks and unknowns.
What criteria need to be met for this to be a good solution? Based on these criteria and the data, what options can you rule out?
Decision-making is, at its simplest, a process of choosing one thing over another. This part of the model explains that logic to the audience with full clarity over the factors being used to score or weigh the decision and how this applies to the data and options presented so far. By this point, they should be nodding along with you.
What is the recommended course of action? What is a high-level plan to achieve this? How will you measure and track progress?
The final part of the model is to share your recommended decision with an action plan to put it into practice. Bonus points if you also include measures of success and how you’ll track progress so your stakeholders understand how accountability will be managed.
How To Use The POWER Model
You can use this model in a number of ways depending on how complex your decision is and how much time you want to spend on each section:
1. A five-slide pitch deck to stakeholders for a business case
2. A workshop format with your team to decide on a path forward together
3. Section headlines for a business case for investment
4. Headers in an email/blog post communicating a decision to your audiences
5. Self-coach by answering the questions above to make a tough decision in your life
When To Use The POWER Model
This model is better suited to the big Type 1 decisions that need more consideration. But it can also be used for faster Type 2 decisions once they have been made to cascade context to the wider organization.
If you’re getting pushback on your decisions from your team, peers or managers, then consider which parts of the model you are missing from your communication and add them in.
More posts like this:
Looks like this is the only one of this type for now
About the author:
Co-founder at Coachable
Executive Coach, Forbes Coaches Council member, Board advisor and facilitator with 22 years of experience in leadership and strategy roles. Now a coach to some of Europe's fastest-growing tech companies. Design lover. Mine’s a G&T.
You're on the list! Watch out for a confirmation email
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.