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#549: Alternatives for When a Client Asks You for a Decision

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, April 21, 2011
Updated: Thursday, April 21, 2011
Sometimes I am in a bind when clients ask me for a decision between two options or my recommendation before I am ready to provide one. I recognize the client is paying but what if I am not comfortable with the options provided?

First, remember that there are almost always more options than those provided. At a minimum, doing nothing is an option. In our haste to improve the client's position, we sometimes forget that every decision has pros, cons, risks and unknowns. A compete assessment of options includes the "do nothing" scenario. In most cases, the client has not conducted a full assessment of "no change" in strategy or activities and the outcomes are often not as bad or good as previously presumed.

Second, be clear with your client - well ahead of time - about the conditions under which you consider options ready for a decision. How complete does information gathering need to be? How extensively do staff need to provide input? Which options (including those that were tried previously) should be included? Who should be involved in the decision and by what protocol should it be made? Finally, when does a decision need to be made? Sometimes clients want to make a decision sooner rather than later just to "have all their options on the table" even when no action will be taken based on the decision. My recommendation is to not make a decision before it needs to be made.

Tip: As an advisor to management presumably accountable for the outcomes of your advice and decisions, you need to be in control of as much of the process as you can be. Walk your client through your recommended decision process and agree on criteria and processes you will use to consider options and decide among them. Only bad things can come from you both assuming you will "figure it out when the time comes."

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  analysis  decision making  recommendations 

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