Ted Pollock, Management Consultant
Politicians do it. Corporations do it. When you aren’t sure what course of action to follow, why shouldn’t you? Two heads are frequently better than one, and three may be still better. Of course, this is only true if you use the right heads.
Before you take your poll, therefore, ask yourself some questions about the people whose advice you intend to seek.
- Are they qualified? If you’re undecided about introducing a new product, don’t ask your accountant for suggestions. On the other hand, if you are considering leasing your auto fleet, don’t expect authoritative advice from your sales force. Make sure the person you are asking for help is familiar with the problem.
- Do they have any vested interests in your decision? If your decision will affect another’s authority, importance or self-interest, he is unlikely to be capable of giving objective advice.
- What’s their track record? Past performance is a fairly accurate clue to future performance. Do the people you intend to survey have a good decision batting average? If not, what makes you think they can tell you what to do now? When you have screened your sources, take your survey and draw up a “score sheet” on which you get their answers to three main questions: What are the specific benefits to be derived from making this decision? What are the risks or possible losses? What will the effect be on the company and on the department for whose work the person contacted is responsible? Under each of these questions jot down the reaction of each person contacted.
If you have polled the proper people, you should end up with a wealth of helpful suggestions at your fingertips.