The 4 types of decisions in business

Many words in the English language have their roots in Latin. For example, “fratricide” comes from the Latin words “frater” (brother) and “caedo” (to cut off or kill). “Suicide” comes from “sui” (of oneself) and “caedo”. And “decide” comes from “de” (off) and “caedo”.

To decide is to kill off doubt. Business owners must make many decisions that can affect different interested parties, including staff, customers, suppliers and their families.   Some of the most important decisions are the ones made about or with employees. How these decisions are made can cause as much stress as the actual decisions themselves. But a great deal of this stress and frustration can be avoided if the decision maker is clear about the type of decision that is being made. You want to make sure your decision truly does kill off doubt, rather than create it.   Decisions can usually be categorised into one of four types:

1. Collaborative  Two or more people (or organisations) work out an agreed choice. If they cannot agree, then a decision is not made. The United Nations Security Council makes a lot of these decisions, which are usually ineffective.

2. Consensus The chairperson or leader sums up all the opinions offered and suggests the decision. Eg. “The consensus appears to be ….”

3. Consult The business owner seeks input from staff and other stakeholders before deciding. Eg. “What colour of carpet should we get for the office floor?”

4. Command The business owner makes a decision without any consultation. He or she relies on their own judgement based on knowledge, experience and research.

Communication is so important when making decisions. You must be clear about what type of decision is being made and communicate that to everyone involved. It is incredibly frustrating for staff to be asked for their input into a decision, only to find out later it that it was a command decision. They will resent the fact that their input didn’t matter.

Often in my own businesses, I would let somebody else make the consensus decision. Otherwise, it could have been perceived that I, in fact, was making a command decision and simply going through the motions of letting everyone express their views.

When it comes to consult decisions, we must make it clear that although opinions are being sought, the decision will ultimately be made by the business owner.

Communicating the type of decision being made improves the chances of a satisfactory outcome. It’s more likely to be accepted by all and its implementation will be so much easier.

If you are facing some big business decisions and need guidance, I can help you get the clarity you need. Email me


Bryan Worn

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