Speeding up decision making

Published: Dec 1, 2014 by C.S. Rhymes

We’ve all been there, asked someone a question and instead of answering your question they ask you another question. I’m guilty of it myself, I’ll freely admit it. So what’s the best way of getting a quick decision out of someone?

How you ask the question

How you ask the question is as important as the question itself. The easy option is to send an email with a question in rather than speaking to the person on the phone or even face to face. In my experience, emails are rubbish. People only read and reply to the emails they want to and can even “accidentally” file them somewhere, or even delete them. Even if you mark the email as high importance, there is no guarantee that the person will read it and understand its importance.

Another option is to pick up the phone and ask someone the question. The phone is a really rude invention that keeps ringing until you answer it (or the person deliberately sends you to voice mail). This is more likely to get the persons attention but its still easy for the other person to give you the standard line of “I’ll get back to you on that” and quickly end the phone call. What do you do then?

Asking a question to someone face to face allows you to read their body language (if you can that is) and also makes it harder for them to avoid the question. As mentioned above, they can still answer your question with another question, but at least you are there to answer it and not have a massive email chain going backwards and forwards for weeks.

Be prepared

So you are face to face with the person and ready to ask the question and they ask you something back, but you don’t know the answer. Damn.

There are two options here, the first being to make up whatever comes into your mind and hope it makes sense. The second option is to say I’ll get back to you. Now it’s you holding things up.

So to avoid this (the third option), make sure you are prepared first. Do some research and prepare yourself some bullet points of the obvious things that you might be asked in response to the question. Don’t write loads of paragraphs, but a few easy to understand notes you can read at a glance. I’m rubbish at remembering numbers so I always try and write them down to quote back at a later time.

Build up a relationship

If there are people that you have to work with regularly then build up a relationship with them. Get to know them. This will help you understand when is a good time to ask the important question and it also helps you understand what other information they may want to know.

Friendship is a great ally in business and its great to know you can call on a favour from time to time. This also means that you can ask the question in a more informal manner, such as at the coffee machine, rather than in a pre booked meeting, taking a bit of stress out of the situation.

Give a bit of background

Don’t just jump into the question. Provide a bit of background to the question to help the person understand where you are coming from. This will help them understand the importance of the decision and will help them understand why certain options will be ruled out before they start speaking.

Draw a picture

This may sound a bit strange but if you draw a picture or a diagram to help explain what you are talking about it will help them visualise what it is you are talking about.

Hopefully these guidelines will help you get a decision quicker and more effectively. Also think about how you answer other peoples questions and how you can be more productive, rather than making the situation worse.

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