12 Nov

How a decision making process substantially increased trust

Do you have a process for making decisions?

I didn’t.

Even though I’m a fan of mental models, I didn’t ever think about establishing a decision making process. Then the leadership team at ConvertKit came across a post from Coinbase about how they make decisions. At the same time we had received feedback from our team that unclear decision making made it hard to trust us as leaders. 

Rather than restating their entire article, I’d recommend you read (or skim) their article and then come back here.

The problem

This year I received direct feedback from the team that they were often confused on both what a decision was and why we made it. The issues included:

  • What exactly was the final decision?
  • Why was that decision made?
  • Who did we listen to and what factors went into the decision?
  • What are the next steps?
  • How will we evaluate if it was successful?
  • Was my input really heard and factored into the decision?

All of these questions go into building a culture of trust and understanding. After all, if you don’t understand why a decision was made, it’s hard to trust that it was the right decision. Due to this—and many other factors including our failed rebrand and lack of growth—trust at ConvertKit was at an all time low this summer.

Our decisions

Using this framework from Coinbase we’ve made 10 decisions over the last few months. A few of them included:

  • Product: How specific parts of the product should behave.
  • Marketing: Details of our Black Friday / Cyber Monday promotion.
  • Engineering: React first development.
  • People: How we should rate individual performance.

Some decisions have been highly debated within the company for months as many team members had strong opinions. It felt like we would go around and around forever without a result, unless someone in leadership made a decision and forced everyone else to get in line. While that may be necessary sometimes, that’s not how I like to run ConvertKit.

The results

Now that we’ve run 10 important decisions through this framework, everything changed.

On a highly charged product decision I thought we would never reach agreement. But through everyone looking to fully understand the problem—and everyone else’s perspective—we reached a new proposal that everyone could agree on!

Alexis, on our marketing team, said: “I love the process 😍 who knew frameworks could be fun?”

What I worried might be too much process and bureaucracy turned into the single best thing we’ve done to increase trust, speed up decision making, and make everyone feel heard.

Each quarter we measure team trust and happiness with a net promoter survey. Back in early August our net promoter score was at an all time low of 36.

Three months later, it was at 62.

There were many factors that resulted in such a wild swing, but plenty of comments show our new decision making framework played a big role.

My favorite things about it are:

  • The options are clearly defined at the beginning. That frames the discussion really well from the start.
  • Everyone has a chance to share their opinion without being cut off or talked over.
  • A decision maker is appointed and everyone agrees to abide by their decision.
  • Everyone commits to the decision for a set amount of time. So you can finally put an end to those conversations that keep coming up!
  • The decision maker completes a write-up at the end with exactly what was decided. This makes it so everyone who wasn’t involved can easily get up to speed.

Next steps

If your team is caught up in unclear decision making or a lack of input from the team, give this framework a try! It’s just three easy steps:

Oh wait, there’s one more: come back and post here in the comments about what you learned!



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2 Responses to “How a decision making process substantially increased trust”

  1. Decisions are always difficult even if they are not in a group. I develop a model to take decisions over content and new techniques to apply on my business, there is sooooo much coming at me all the time that I need a way to clutter and select just the ones that serve me well. First I start by answering if the “new thing” will serve any of my goals of the time being after I follow with more questions that will allow me to take decisions quickly.

    I will read the linked post.

  2. Thanks for sharing this framework. I plan to adapt it for my own personal business decisions.

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