In my experience as the founder and CEO of two startups I have had numerous opportunities to observe decisions being made: technical decisions about how to build products, personnel decisions about whom to hire, business decisions about how to market and sell our products, strategic decisions about company direction and financing, and many others. In some cases I believe we made the decisions in an effective fashion, but in other cases I was unhappy with either the result or the process. In looking back over those decisions I have found a framework for decision-making that explains both the successes and failures. This essay describes the framework; using it will allow you to make good decisions consistently and efficiently, and with a high degree of buy-in from the people who will have to implement them.
If you imagine a spectrum of decision-making philosophies, where one end of the spectrum consists of a closed approach involving few people, little or no input, and decisions that are made in a hierarchical or autocratic fashion, and where the other end of the spectrum represents an open approach involving many people, lots of input and consultation, and a more bottom-up approach, the philosophy I advocate is very near the open end of the spectrum. The basic philosophy is that the most reliable way to make good decisions is to capture the collective wisdom of a large group of people rather than relying on one or a few people. In order to do this, the decision-making process must be highly inclusive and it must allow consensus to emerge where it exists.