The Value of a Decision Journal

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Village Global, an early-stage venture capital firm, recently posted some excerpts on Medium from a talk that Pinterest CEO and co-founder Ben Silbermann gave at the company.   In particular, I was intrigued by this suggestion that leaders keep a decision journal.  Here’s Silbermann explaining the concept and why it’s valuable for leaders: 

Write down decisions you make — and your rationale at the time — into a “decision journal.” Next time you hire someone, cut a partnership deal, decide on a key product spec — or make any hard decision — write down your reasoning in a journal. Later, you can see how the decision played out relative to your reasoning at the time you made the decision. You can learn whether you should have trusted your gut at the time or not.

Ben has been doing this for awhile and swears by the technique: I feel like if you don’t write down a decision you made and why, there’s so many things going on that it’s very hard to remember exactly what you were thinking at the time, because you have this kind of running dialogue that’s being updated along the way. So that’s been really helpful for me.

I love the concept because it provides leaders a structured opportunity for reflection and learning.   I think it has additional value though.  For many leaders, performance suffers not because they made a poor decision, but because they communicated it ineffectively to others in the organization.  Why can the decision journal help?  By forcing themselves to write down the rationale for their decisions, leaders then have an opportunity to improve the clarity of their explanation.  They can clarify their own thinking about the criteria they used to make critical choices, and consequently, they can explain that rationale clearly and concisely to their team members.  Before people commit to and support a decision, they want to know more than just WHAT the plan is… they want to know WHY leaders chose those particular actions and strategies.  The decision journal can help leaders clarify their own thinking about the WHY behind their decisions.  


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