Article | February 5, 2014

WWEMA Window: Decision Making – A Different Perspective


By Deb LaVelle, president, Bestt Consulting, LLC

As water and wastewater industry professionals, our lives revolve around processes, with a capital “P.”  From the process of regulation, to solutions developed for compliance, to providing services for our customers and running our companies, we must have more than a basic understanding of any process in which we choose to participate.

Why then, do so many struggle with the basic principle that decision making is a process and requires documentation?

Regardless of your industry perspective, we can all agree decisions come in great, not-so-great and do-not-repeat flavors. So how do we capture good decisions and make them available within our organizations? British clergyman William Pollard (1828 -1893) once said: “It is not always what we know or analyzed before we make a decision that makes it a great decision. It is what we do after we make the decision to implement and execute it that makes it a good decision.” Pollard was a pretty savvy guy.

We all know of one or more broken decision making processes facing our industry every day. How about Washington’s most recent decision on the budget? Was this decision made with a thorough understanding of our infrastructure needs and a plan for implementation, execution, monitoring, and corrective action for those instances when do-not-repeat decisions surface? I don’t think so. However, these types of decisions are being made in every sector of our industry on a daily basis without involving the decision making process.

With knowledge and experience at a premium in our industry—much of which relies on sound decision making capabilities—it is imperative for every sector of our industry to capture and preserve all key decisions. This point can be illustrated in another quote from Pollard: “Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit.”

A strategic or tactical plan will produce successful results only if a record of the decision making process is understood and implemented. This process can be simply stated as:

Record every decision of importance:  go/no go. A decision record includes expected effects; when they will be realized; all assumptions and input into the decision (information, knowledge and understanding); and how the decision was made and by whom.

Monitor the decisions for deviations of fact from expectations and assumptions. Discovery of a deviation requires identification of its cause and corrective action. Corrective action is a recordable decision.

This process allows us not only to correct mistakes but to understand the reasons behind the mistakes so we can make future decisions rapidly and effectively. 

This thought process comes naturally to some. Businesses succeed or fail based on decisions, so regardless of outcome, the reasons behind the decisions should always be known and understood.

Finally, I will close with a quote from Phil McGraw: “Sometimes you make the right decision; sometimes you make the decision right.” That’s right; Dr. Phil is a pretty savvy guy too.

Deb LaVelle is president of Bestt Consulting, LLC, a sales, marketing, and project management consulting firm based in Rockton, Illinois. She is Immediate Past Chairman and a member of the Board of Directors of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA).