In our last blog post we talked about creating a more useful and informative Engagement Spec for candidates. Adding another level of detail to this document will give your assessment team a roadmap for the evaluation process.

This internal “Company” version of the Engagement Spec should identify and outline elements of what we call the Decision Matrix. The Decision Matrix is a tool for dissecting and understanding the politics of decision-making in your company – in other words, who and what influences decision-making?

In the context of a potential new hire, two key pieces of information will materially impact how you evaluate a candidate’s ability to succeed in the role:

1. Who are the pivotal relationships? What relationships are critical to your new hire’s success vis a vis the decisions that drive key initiatives? Include both the formal (“official” relationships, like the person’s manager and his/her direct reports) and informal (how work gets done through personal interactions and social connections outside the formal reporting structure).

Informal network relationships can have a disproportionate effect on a person’s ability to be successful. At its core, the informal network is based on who knows what, who gets things done, and who can stop things from getting done.

For example, I recently worked on a CMO search for an Internet start-up and as part of our due diligence process spoke with the VP of Engineering. I asked him, Who should this person build a relationship with that may not be so obvious? He told me of an engineer on his team who had developed a camaraderie directly with the CEO and who would regularly toss product ideas to him without talking to the marketing department. Bingo. That is clearly an individual the new CMO would need to build a relationship with in order to avoid getting crossed up on product decisions.

2. What is the nature of your company’s decision-making environment? What type of decision-making environment will a new hire need to successfully navigate (group, consensus, participative, consultative, unilateral, etc.)? Is there a company-wide formal decision-making process? Does the company work on improving this process? Is there a common company-wide language for talking about decision-making?

The primary task here is to develop a common understanding of how your company manages the process of making decisions. With that as the backdrop, it is a lot easier to assess an individual candidate’s experience, how it will mesh with your unique environment and whether this person has the sensitivity and skills to make an immediate positive impact on performance.

Now that you have the roadmap, the next step is to set up your assessment team for success. Stay tuned.