Decision Meetings

Effective deciding in conference calls


The secret of effective decisions in conference calls lies in their preparation. The goal must be to produce a (albeit minimal) written decision paper. The decision paper is distributed to all participants beforehand, in order to allow for maximum focus on question, answers and decisions as well as measures that need to be taken.

Form of decision paper


Frequently, decision papers are created as PowerPoint slides. PowerPoint slides are not effective in conference calls. Formulations must be unambiguous and clear. Content, background information and framing are more important than style.. Therefore, decision papers should be prepared as structured texts.

Structure of the decision memos


We recommend the following structure for a target-oriented decision template - based on the "Steps for good decisions" by economist, entrepreneur and author Fredmund Malik

  • Problem description & need for action
    "From a misunderstood problem, you can never arrive at a correct solution," Malik says. It is therefore essential to describe in very specific terms what the problem is and why it needs to be solved, including background information and a brief account of developments so far.
  • Representation of all solution alternatives
    According to Malik, the status quo is also one of the alternatives. For this as for all other solution alternatives, the supporting or opposing reasons must be explained together with the corresponding facts.
  • Analysis of risks & consequences
    For each alternative, the risks and consequences of the decision should be analysed - even if the arguments are not always based on facts but on assumptions.
  • Recommendation & final resolution proposal
    After a recommendation for one of the alternative solutions has been made and justified, the resolution proposal should be formulated in such a way that it can be accepted by a simple "Yes".

    It is often useful to attach a "Frequently Asked Questions" appendix to the decision paper. By anticipating questions from the decision-makers, the telephone conference can be made even more effective by questioning only new aspects, but not standards.
conference call

Preparation and procedure of the conference call

Decision makers / participants
Only decision-makers themselves should participate in the conference call. If they are unable to attend, they will send an authorized representative to make decisions on their behalf.

Decision paper
The decision paper must be available to all participants at least 24 hours before the conference. The contents of the conference call are assumed to be known by everyone.

Length of the conference
The length of the conference call is determined by the number of participants, the scope of the problem and the number of proposed alternative solutions. However, it should never exceed one hour.

Question and Answer session
During the conference, each participant is given the opportunity to ask further questions one after the other. The author (possibly with the help of one or more specialists) answers these questions based on the facts presented in the decision paper. If further facts need to be introduced, these will be mentioned and/or submitted subsequently.

At the end of the conference call, a vote is taken on the basis of the formulated resolution proposal. The author prepares a short protocol of the results and sends it to the participants.


How we support

Would you like support in preparing your decision paper and in telephone conferences? We are happy to help.


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Heike Kraft

Nils-Christoph Ebsen