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Improve Your Decision-Making with the Async Protocol

Increase your output and efficiency by making great decisions without meetings.

By Andrew Logemann

Jul 11, 2022

The quality of your decision-making probably isn’t the first thing you think about when you start your workday.

As a leader in your organization, you have metrics to track, direct reports to supervise, products to build, and a calendar full of meetings to attend every day. Whether you realize it or not, decision-making is embedded in each of these tasks. Each is the result of dozens of decisions about what to prioritize, where to invest resources, and even who to hire.

This is why the success or failure of your company depends almost exclusively on the quality of your decision-making.

You need a best-in-class decision-making process

A great decision-making process makes it easy to identify the best decisions for your team or company, quickly and efficiently.

It empowers you to:

  • Define problems to be solved with clarity
  • Propose an insightful solutions aligned with your company’s goals
  • Invite key stakeholders to review and approve your proposals
  • Create an enduring record of the decision that preserves the context of who was involved, why the decision was made, and how your company will assess its value and impact.

And when you can accomplish all of this without meetings, your output and efficiency become nearly unstoppable.

This is the Async Protocol.

Step 0: Define the problem collaboratively

Before you start your decision-making process, you need to define the problem to be solved in conversation with your team.

To invite wide participation, pose the problem as a question in a sharable document, send it out to your team, and give everyone permission to add their reactions. The issues will become clearer and better defined as you incorporate different points of view and diverse perspectives.

Thinking about the problem from many angles is the secret to unlocking your team’s knowledge. As Art Markman put it in How You Define the Problem Determines Whether You Solve It, “most people who come up with creative solutions to problems rely on a relatively straightforward method: finding a solution inside the collective memory of the people working on the problem. That is, someone working to solve the problem knows something that will help them find a solution — they just haven’t realized yet that they know it.”

In other words, great solutions rarely appear out of nowhere. Instead, they arise from the knowledge and experience that your team has already accumulated. But only if you define the problem in ways that help them recognize the connections. Markman discovered that “tapping into the individual’s or group’s memory is one of the most cost effective and repeatable problem-solving approaches.”

Step 1: Draft your proposed solution

Once you’ve defined the problem, the first step in a great decision-making process is increasing the clarity of your ideas by writing them down.

Writing is one of the most versatile methods for gaining clarity and making better decisions. It forces you to focus on one idea at a time. It highlights weak points in your logic and gaps in your evidence. And it helps you see your idea from different perspectives.

At Amazon, requiring executives to use writing to propose solutions was one of the secrets to Jeff Bezos’ success. He banned PowerPoint because he believed that decision-making requires narrative to persuade stakeholders. According to Bezos, “the narrative structure of a good memo forces better thought and better understanding of what’s more important than what.”

Presenting solutions in writing gets everyone on the same page at the start of the discussion.

Step 2: Invite key stakeholders to review and approve your proposed decision

The second step in a great decision-making process is gathering feedback from key stakeholders, and requesting formal approval from the relevant manager or executive.

Sharing your written proposal with stakeholders as early as possible helps others buy in to your idea, and builds excitement around it. A review of your document invites people to give feedback with all the necessary context, allows you to organize comments by person/role, triage risks and areas that require additional discussion, and resolve questions and suggested changes.

At Almanac, we use software features for reviews and approvals to give and get structured and transparent feedback on documents.

The most valuable aspect of a formal review process is that it results in a settled, documented decision from a manager or executive.

Step 3: Organize the decision in an organization-wide handbook

The third step in a great decision-making process is adding your approved document to a handbook. This will save you time in the future by documenting what was decided, and when, and why.

This kind of documentation plays an important role in solidifying decisions. It becomes part of your culture. It serves as a way to look back in time and remember why certain decisions were made. It also becomes a pathway through which other people can access your company’s accumulated knowledge and feel empowered to make decisions on their own.

Once a decision is properly documented, it becomes part of a living system: chances are good that if something changes later on, someone will update it in the same way that they did when they first introduced it.

This will make your organization much more like a living body than a static one — and this is a primary characteristic of healthy companies.

Use the Async Protocol to level up your decision-making

A great decision is one that you’re happy to defend in a meeting, interview, or discussion. It has a clear owner and any outstanding issues have been resolved. It will move the needle on your business goals and it’s based on reliable data.

You can make great decisions without unnecessary meetings with the Async Protocol:

  • Define problems to be solved with clarity
  • Propose an insightful solutions aligned with your company’s goals
  • Invite key stakeholders to review and approve your proposals
  • Organize a living handbook of decisions that preserves the context what was decided, and when, and why.

We’ve created a free, easy-to-use template to help you start using the Async Protocol for decision-making.

Click here to use the template to improve your decision-making today!

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