Ask These 4 Specific Questions to Make a Great Decision

Posted by Kristin Arnold on September 11, 2018

“What were they thinking?”  Roger, the CEO of a mid-sized US-based company was shaking his head, lamenting a recent recommendation presented by one of his business units. “I just don’t get it!  It’s like they didn’t think through the ramifications of this idea.  It’s patently obvious that this is the wrong thing to do!”

Patently obvious to the CEO, but how about to the rest of the team?

In my experience of working with hundreds of CEOs and their teams, I have unearthed four specific criteria your team can use as a litmus test to making a great decision and/or presenting a recommendation:

  1. Are the recommendations and/or decisions based on evidence, logical inference, and informed guesses?
  2. Are the ideas and plans presented in a coherent and well, thought-out fashion?
  3. Do the decisions reflect a “systems thinking” mentality as to what is best for the company or a functional or “silo” approach that relates to that business leader’s span of control?
  4. Are the assumptions captured, and can the information, conclusions and decisions be revised as conditions change?

Which one of these is your team’s biggest challenge?  I don’t know about your specific circumstances, but many executives struggle mightily with the first criteria:  the “soundness” of the recommendation and/or decision.  The team either lacks the critical thinking skills to thoroughly think it through OR they suffer from some unsuspecting biases that keep them from seeing all the possibilities and facets of the decision.

It wasn’t until I had taken “The Fundamentals of Legal Principles” during my junior year at the US Coast Guard Academy that I really understood a simple framework to thinking things through.  The professor turned everything (and I mean everything) into a hypothesis (what’s the problem?), analysis, conclusions, and then recommendations.  You have to cover each item in order to get an “A.”

Unfortunately, what most of us do is leap from the problem into detailed recommendations, without passing “Go”  or through the heavy lifting of root cause analysis and then conclusions that are supported by facts.

And when we present that “rock” – that recommendation to the CEO, she stares at the rock, looks at it from a few angles, and declares, “That isn’t the rock I was looking for!”  She throws it over her shoulder and tells the team to start anew.

I call this “The Rock Phenomenon” – and I’ll share specific ideas on how to overcome this unfortunate situation next week!


KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.

Recent Articles:

4 Tell-tale Signs You are a Controlling Leader

Leaders: Do You Need Strategic Planning or Do You Have Clear Vision?

Stretch your Leadership Team’s Ability to Think Strategically


Skip to content