Who Makes the Call

Who Makes the Call by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Communication and decision-making. Over and over again I run into these two areas of leadership. … Master these two and you can rule the world. Sorta. While this is obviously an exaggeration, a person or organization that demonstrates excellence in these two areas is a LONG way toward achieving excellence. This brief article highlights a couple key points related to world-class decision-making.

The picture above is from Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. For me, the decision was easy and I owned it. It was a Saturday morning and I had a few hours to kill before hitting the airport to head back home. The market is world-famous and, though I’d been there several times before, it drew me like a magnet. The decision was easy. No one else was with me. I didn’t have to worry about other members of the team or organization or family. The decision was 100% mine. And I made it.

It was a good decision. I was able to browse the market, take some pictures, and have a coffee and a sweet roll. I was able to smell the lavender, see the fish, people-watch and take in numerous sights and sounds. I loved it! The decision was easy, it was mine, it was made in a timely manner, and effective.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all decisions were this easy? I’m not completely naïve. Like you, I realize that many decisions are complicated. They can involve many key people. The issues can be complex. The outcomes can have high stakes. Some decisions simple and easy to make, like what type of coffee to order at Starbucks. Other decisions are complex and difficult, like what action to action take (or not) when dealing with national and international policy.

The bottom-line of this article is that world-class organizations know how to make decisions. They know how to make good decisions. They know how to make quick decisions (when necessary). They know how to appropriately use data in the decision-making process. They know who the decisions-makers are for various decisions. And they know what the decision-making process is for their organization.

Many organizations focus on reducing variation and improving quality through lean and six sigma activities. And many of these organizations are successful. These improvement tools and the underlying methodology have saved organizations a lot of money and improved products and services for countless customers.

What I want you to think about think about this week is what your organization, be it a large multi-national corporation or a family, would look like if you (and others) knew “who makes the call.” In other words, if decision-making variation were reduced. If the decision-making process was clear. If the decision-makers were clearly defined.

How many times have you seen a team spin its wheels remaking the same decision? How many times have you seen team members “wait” while various people who thought they owned the decision made different decisions? Think this leads to confusion, added cost, slow turnaround times, etc.? You’re right, of course it does.

If you have kids, you already know how they often play one parent against the other. If mom says “no”, they go to dad and vice-versa. The result? Confusion. Anger. Lack of trust. Bad decisions. Lack of respect. Etc. … The same thing happens in organizations, large and small. Some people play the system.

Others, who are working hard and trying to make things happen, get frustrated while waiting for a decision to be made. There are, of course, political obstacles in organizations that don’t have a well-defined decision-making process (including who makes the call). A person who owns making the call won’t make it because they’re afraid of owning the outcome. Various functional areas within an organization often fight over who makes the call. This decision-making dysfunctionality slows things down, adds costs and results in missed opportunities.

If you’re a leader (formal or informal), work to set clear decision-making processes and define clear decision-makers. Make it part of defined organizational roles and responsibilities. You’ll be glad you did. You’ll enjoy better results, more satisfied customers and happier employees. You’ll also experience less stress.

In your organization, do you understand the decision-making process? Are decisions clearly communicated? Do you know “who” makes the decision?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.


Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.


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