Consult Like a Democracy, Implement Like a Dictator

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Peter Schutz, former CEO of Porsche and author of Driving Force, has some great things to say about the decision-making and implementation process. Naturally, he frames it in terms of cars and racing.

What happens on race day

When planning for an important race, everyone on the team should be solicited for input about key decisions such as what fuel to use or which tires to put on the car. Debate vigorously and get all the input you can. But on race day, we race.

In other words: When an important decision looms on the horizon, I encourage you to open up the discussion in a democratic way, inviting input from all interested parties. I’m all for vigorous debate within the organization. I want the people who work for me to come up with great ideas and be ready to share them. Why? Because bad decisions come from not talking to your people. In many cases, they know more than you do.

After a specified cut-off date, compile all the contributions and carefully examine them for whatever value they might have. When it’s time to make the decision and implement it, you must do so dictatorially. The time for input has come and gone. Now it’s time for everyone to get in line and make it happen.

Avoid the black hole

Under what’s sometimes called the “consult management style,” the leader requests input into a forthcoming decision, but clearly indicates that he or she alone has the authority to make the final decision. As long as this is known up-front, there should be no problem.

Unfortunately, in many cases, employees are solicited for input but – after a decision has been made – know nothing about how that decision came about, what factors influenced the final outcome, and how that decision will ultimately benefit the organization.

If employees feel that you asked for feedback, only to let it vanish into a black hole, they’ll prove to be a hard sell during the implementation process. If on the other hand, you share what you can about how the decision was made – and that their contributions were thoughtfully considered – chances are they’ll champion the new way of doing things. They’ll also understand how vitally important it is that one person must be the final authority in such matters.

The fine art of high-level decision-making is only one of many aspects of leadership discussed by members of Catapult Groups. Watch this video to see how CEO Tony Barajas leveraged his peer group experience to make better decisions for his business.


Brad Mishlove