Arrows“We’ll decide on a case-by-case basis.”

This phrase can sometimes be a real cop-out, so be cautious in using it.  Often it really means:

  • I don’t want to think about it now.
  • I hope that conditions at the time will make the decision easier.
  • I have no idea how we’ll make the decision.

If this is the case, it might also mean that you have no grounding principles.  And that’s extremely dangerous.

If there is no underlying guidance for decision-making, then you either haven’t empowered your people to decide anything, or you’ll get random behavior.  For the big stuff, sure, you don’t want to empower people.  But what about the day-to-day things?  Don’t you want your folks to develop their common sense to be consistent with your company’s goals?

Even if it’s just for your future self, it’s worth developing a framework for decisions.  It’s not hard.

Start with your overall goals, mission and vision for the business.  You want the company to go somewhere, right?  Not just bounce around based on whatever happens?

Next, capture your principles.  This might look like:

  • It’s important to keep the customers who drive most of our profit.
  • We want a good image in the market.
  • We want to be honest with ourselves, and not hide issues.

You’ll probably want 3-7 of these statements, depending on how granular they are.  But you want the list short enough that people can learn them and remember them whenever a decision is made.

Rotary has a way of articulating its grounding principles in the form of its “4 Way Test”:

  • Is it the truth?
  • Is it fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build good will and better friendships?
  • Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

It’s surprising how stable this is, and it’s still applicable some 80 years after it was first articulated.  And it does indeed drive day-to-day decisions for over a million people around the world.

If you want your folks to be acting in the best interests of your business, build a set of principles or desired behaviors based on your overall goals, mission, or purpose.  Then work hard to ensure that each and every employee internalizes them and uses them to guide daily decisions.

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