5 Leadership Tools for Decision-Making and Problem-Solving

Have a problem to solve or a decision to make? If so, there are several tried-and-true methods to turn to.


As customer experience professionals, the work you do to identify improvement opportunities and other initiatives to design and deliver a better experience requires you to build the business case and help your executives prioritize those initiatives — because there are typically many improvements that need to be made.

I’m often asked about tools to facilitate those decisions. I’ve come across a few of them over the years. I’ll share those first and then add one more that I recently came across.

Collaborative Planning Process

Back in 1997, the US Army developed a seven-step process called the Military Decision-Making Process, which was designed to help teams develop, integrate and synchronize their plans in order to prepare for success in dynamic environments.

David Robinson wrote in Chief Executive magazine that he adapted the military’s process and created one called Collaborative Planning Process. What struck me about that process was this: he created a deliberate decision-making checklist that consists of seven questions:

  1. Is this a decision that I need to make now?
  2. Did I consider the strategic context, including realistic constraints?
  3. Did I get the right people with the right expertise in the room?
  4. Did I accurately frame the issue and encourage rigorous debate?
  5. Did I collect all of the relevant facts and consider all aspects of the issue?
  6. Did I identify and appropriately weigh the risks and opportunities?
  7. Do I feel enough conviction to be decisive and explain why I made the decision?

I think these are all fair questions for you to ask before you present your ideas and improvement initiatives to your executive team.

Related Article: How to Ace Customer Experience Leadership in Year 1

RICE Scoring Model

Developed by Intercom specifically for product managers, the RICE Scoring Model is used to prioritize the various projects and ideas that come across their desks. What do you start with first? It’s simple and straightforward, and it’s a great approach for customer experience professionals to use, as well.

RICE takes four factors — Reach, Impact, Confidence and Effort — and translates them into a score to help with prioritization.

  • Reach is the number of people it will impact in a given time period, e.g., customers per year.
  • Impact is just that, how much it will impact each person, e.g., increase in satisfaction, increased adoption.
  • Confidence is confidence in your data, your numbers and is reported as a percentage that also falls into High (100%), M (80%), or L (50%) classifications.
  • Effort is time required (person months) from all involved in the initiative.

To calculate the score, you’ll multiply Reach x Impact x Confidence and then divide that by Effort.

The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix is a time-management tool that helps you to both prioritize and make decisions about the work that needs to be done.

The matrix is based on how President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served as a general in the United States Army and as the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during World War II, made decisions about the many tasks he had to focus on every day. His philosophy was that we should be spending time on things that are not only urgent (require immediate attention) but also important (advance us toward our goals/outcomes).

The two-by-two matrix has urgency (urgent/not urgent) on the x-axis, while the y-axis captures importance (important/not important). Start by creating a list of all of your initiatives. Then define how you’re going to determine importance and urgency.

What factors will you consider as you put the task into buckets? That’s really at the crux of the exercise, so take time to do this right. You might include factors that I advocate considering:

  • Cost to fix
  • Time to fix
  • Effort to fix
  • Resources required to fix
  • Impact on the business
  • Impact on the customer, as well as
    • Type of customers impacted
    • Volume of customers impacted

Regardless, impact on the customer should always be a consideration.

Plot those initiatives on the matrix. Those things that are urgent and important should be done first. Delegate those things that are urgent but not important. Schedule those things that are important but not urgent. And, finally, don’t do the things that are not urgent and not important.

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