Decision-Making Best Practice 17 – Informal Advisors

StrategyDriven Decision Making ArticleDecision-making always possesses an element of uncertainty. And as the complexity of a decision increases, so does the risk of miscommunication, execution error, unanticipated conditions, and unintended consequences. StrategyDriven encourages the employment of a devil’s advocate to help mitigate such risks. (See StrategyDriven‘s best practice article – advocatus diaboli, The Devil’s Advocate and listen to the StrategyDriven PodcastThe Devil’s Advocate.) Unfortunately, even the staunchest contrarian may operate from an experience base closely aligned to the decision-making team; limiting the span of his or her challenges. Consequently, another mechanism is needed to provide the decision-maker with the complete set of challenges to his or her choices.[wcm_restrict plans=”49346, 25542, 25653″]

Informal advisors represent trusted, highly regarded and knowledgeable individuals with whom the decision-maker can vet her or her choices. In many cases, these individuals do not operate within the decision-makers inner circle of technical advisors but are instead personal advisors and confidants. These are the people leaders commonly ‘bounces ideas off of;’ who provide insight and ask invaluable questions that challenge the leader’s thinking in a way that reveals the strengths and weaknesses of a chosen course of action.

Role of Informal Advisors

Informal advisors serve many functions in the decision-making process, some of which include:

  • Reinforce mission alignment. Informal advisors question the decision-maker as to whether the chosen course of action reinforces the company’s chose direction and goals or if it simply an expedient course of action that could have adverse ramifications in the future.
  • Moral and ethical guide. These individuals challenge the decision-maker to test the selected course of action against the values of the organization and society; often revealing whether or not the decision will be well received by shareholders, employees, regulators, and the public.
  • The decision-maker’s conscious. Informal advisors tend to be personally close to the decision-maker. Therefore, they understand the person’s character and moral fiber. In addition to challenging whether the decision meets the organization’s mission and values, they test for whether the decision is consistent with the character of the decision-maker who ultimately sets the tone for the organization’s behavior.
  • Decision clarity. Personal advisors are typically not as steeped in the technical issues related to the decision as are the organization’s managers and staff. These advisors can therefore readily indicate whether the leader’s decision communications are clear and concise – whether the are understandable – and can provide feedback as to how the decision might be perceived by organization members based on the way in which the choice is being communicated. Such feedback affords the decision-maker to correct communications, as necessary, to minimize misperceptions.
  • Outside perspective. Many times informal advisors are leaders from other companies and possibly other industries. Their background, while not technically rooted in the issues facing the decision-maker’s organization, may have strong parallels as they may have encountered similar decisions the details of which are unknown to the organization’s decision-making team. Such advisors provide a broader perspective, bringing ideas, new concepts, and lessons learned from outside of the organization that can be beneficial in shaping the final decision and implementation approach.

Final Thought…

As an organization leader, it is not only important to have one or more informal advisors, it is equally important to reciprocate and to be an informal advisor to trusted friends and colleagues. In addition to making the leader’s decisions more robust, it helps these individuals grow their knowledge, experience, and perceptions beyond that which they would otherwise be limited to by dealing only with the challenges of their own organization.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember plans=”49346, 25542, 25653″]

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