As the CEO of a scaling company, you know that effective decision-making is critical to the success of your business. However, as your company grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of all the decisions that are made, and the reasons behind them. Throw in the many departments in your company along with mid-level management, and suddenly you’re asking yourself, “What the hell is actually happening in my company?”
That's why you need to have a centralized place to track decisions that are made.
Benefits of having a Decision Tracker
Nothing falls through the cracks.
If you don’t keep track of all issues surfaced and discussed, things will inevitably fall through the cracks. Therefore, a centralized place to track decisions allows you to easily review past discussions and decisions, ensuring that important issues are not overlooked.
This is especially important in fast-paced industries where decisions need to be made quickly to stay ahead of the competition, and in fast-growing startups where ambiguity can harm cross-functional teams and cause tension and strife.
A Decision Tracker is a track record of opinions.
Keeping a written log of stakeholder opinions helps you as CEO identify who makes great decisions in the company, and for which fields. By seeing discussions written down from all key participants, you’ll begin to spot patterns on who the true experts in each department are, and what strengths they bring to the table.
Similar to Ray Dalio’s concept of Baseball Cards, collecting this information is a more formal way of understanding each teammate’s strengths and weaknesses. With this information, you as CEO can make evidence-based judgment calls on when to weigh a teammate’s opinion more heavily due to their industry expertise, versus when the opinion of another teammate might be more appropriate.
As Ray Dalio says, you can review the decision-making process and identify patterns that can help you make more informed decisions in the future. This serves as a track record to reference what opinions people hold, ensuring that you can leverage their expertise in the future.
This also forces teammates to be thoughtful and clear with their opinions. Because it lives on, no one wants to be the fool who wings a response, only for it to be memorialized in the tracker.
Explicit decisions are always better than vague ones.
There are few things that are more frustrating to excellent teammates than vague decisions that don’t move towards tangible action. The best operators on your team have a clear Bias Toward Action. Vague decision making is the opposite of promoting a BTA culture.
A centralized decision tracker forces decision makers to be clear and explicit on what the actual decision is. This means there’s less room for misinterpretation, everything is written out clearly, and the spirit of transparency is promoted in the company, thus leading to teammates feeling like they can trust leadership with decision-making happening out in the open.
At the end of the day, when everyone is on the same page about the decision, it ensures that everyone is aligned on what needs to be done. This prevents misunderstandings and ensures that everyone is working towards the same goal.
Explicit decisions lead to explicit action.
Finally, keeping track of the action items that come from a decision is crucial. A centralized place to track decisions allows everyone to remember why they agreed to do an action, and provides quantitative data on whether an action was effective or not. This ensures that everyone is held accountable for their actions.
Decisions aren’t meaningful if there is no deliberate action taken. Tying an action tracker or agreement tracker to decisions makes them 10x more powerful, so make decisions explicit and make the actions that accompany them explicit as well.
As a caveat, this doesn’t mean there’s always something to do: the explicit decision could be to not do anything. But it’s important for your key stakeholders to understand that that’s the decision being made, and they should be in agreement that that is the proper decision to move forward.
Conclusion & Implementation
By now, you as the CEO can see: a centralized decision tracker is an essential tool for any scaling company. It ensures that nothing falls through the cracks, helps identify patterns in decision-making, promotes transparency and accountability, and leads to explicit action.
The best way to implement one is to simply start from the top. You will want to track decisions first with your direct reports in 1-1s: once you’ve processed the Issues together and decided what the outcome should be, log it in the Decision Tracker along with the proper action items in the Action Tracker. After you do this several times, you will show your direct reports the power and efficacy of decision tracking.
Note: beware the executive who does not want to use a Decision Tracker. This person may be fearful of using one because they may say many things in meetings that sound good, but they don’t actually want to be held accountable. This is often a telltale sign of someone who drives politics in your org and isn’t afraid of throwing a colleague or two under the bus to protect themselves, their image, and their position.
Don’t mistake this for your teammates who are inherently skeptical of new processes being implemented in the org; that is fair and to be expected. But use your discernment and good judgement to decide: is someone resistant to decision tracking because they are skeptical of a new system? Or is it because they don’t want to put their money where their mouth is? If it’s the latter, you are likely better off without these kinds of people on your team.
Once you’ve done this with your team in 1-1s, you can move onto using the Decision Tracker in your Executive Team Leadership meeting. By then, everyone will be used to using this in their 1-1s with you, so the format will be familiar and easy to follow.
Finally, you can then ask ELT to implement this in their respective departments and cross-functionally. At this point, you will have eyes on all important decisions being made in every level of your organization.
In some cases, Decisions can contain sensitive information, such as hiring/firing, compensation, or fundraising. This is why my preferred Decision Tracker is built on Notion: for anything that is sensitive, you can simply choose to turn privacy settings on or off for certain teams and levels. Personally, I am a big proponent of as much transparency as possible, but you can decide what makes the most sense for you and your company.
Free template for download
If you're convinced of the power of having a Decision Tracker, there is a free Notion template for you to download here. Enjoy and good luck!