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15

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12:51

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Business English

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Decision-Making Meetings

Transcript

Hello and welcome back to Business English Pod. My name’s Edwin, and I’ll be your host for today’s lesson on decision-making meetings.

 

Success in business depends on making good decisions. But making good decisions is not just an Individual skill. It’s a group skill. Several people come together to discuss an issue, explore options, and decide which path to follow. With good information, a good decision-making process, and good meeting skills, the participants should be able to make the best decision possible.

 

So what kind of skills might be useful in decision-making meetings? Today we’ll explore techniques such as framing a decision, inviting discussion, and referencing criteria. We’ll also cover raisingconcerns and requesting more information.

 

In the dialog, we’ll hear a group of people at an engineering firm trying to decide on a tech support company to hire. Scott, as senior partner, is leading the meeting, while Anne and David and Kelly are participating. The group discusses their options in order to figure out the best company to hire.As you listen to the dialog, try to answer the following questions:

 

1.What does Scott say is the basic question they have to answer?

2.What consideration does Kelly bring up in the discussion?

3.What piece of information about City Tech does David want to know?

Dialog

Scott: All right, looks like everyone’s here now, so let’s get started. Our job today is to decide on who we’re going to go withfor tech support. And I think the big thing behind all of this, I mean the big question, is who is going to give us the best support. Not just now but in the future as we grow. Sound good?

Anne: Yes, I’m glad you mention the future and growth. I think that’s important.

David: Yeah,I agree. Sounds great Scott.

Scott: Super. So, everyone’s gone through all the info on the shortlist, right? We’ve got Drayton, City Tech, Brightstar and Alamo. Okay? Anyone want to start us off here? Thoughts on these options?

Kelly: Mind if I open it upScott?

Scott: No, go ahead Kelly.

Kelly: Well, I know that one of our concerns is cost, right? Because I’m looking here at the different bids and it appears that Drayton comes in quite a bit cheaper than the other three. Just thought I’d point that out ... Something to think about.

Anne: For sure... that’s one of our considerations. But I think we have to be a bit careful about emphasizing cost too much. I mean, I see a bit of a problem here with their experience. They’re pretty new, right? And none of their experience is specifically in the engineering field.

Kelly: True enough.

David: Yeah, I’m with you onthat. I don’t think we should cut too many corners on this. We learned our lesson with the last guys, right?

Scott: Good point. So, let’s leave Drayton out of this. What about City Tech? They’ve got some experience, right?

David: Yeah, some. But are they even in Dallas? I thought I saw a Houston address or something. I think we need to figure that out before anything else.

Kelly: Okay, let me just go look that up. Be right back.

 

Debrief

Now let’s go through the dialog again and look at the language and techniques used in this decision-making discussion.

Scott: All right, looks like everyone’s here now, so let’s get started. Our job today is to decide on who we’re going to go with for tech support. And I think the big thing behind all of this, I mean the big question, is who is going to give us the best support. Not just now but in the future as we grow. Sound good?

The group has come together to make a decision, and Scott wants to start things off by making sure everyone is clear about what that decision is. He states that they need to decide who to “go with”, or choose, for tech support. And he frames that decision as an issue of who will give them the best support now and in the future. By framing the decision in this way, he gives a mission to the participants.

Let’s practice some more ways of framing a decision at the start of a meeting:

Okay, so what we need to decide here is a product name that will connect with our customers.

The issue we’re looking at is which of the three locations is best for our new office.

So, everyone here’s our goal for today: we need to decide where to cut costs without impacting customer service.

Here’s the question: which of these vendors is the best fit for our company?

Now let’s get back to the meeting.

Anne: Yes, I’m glad you mention the future and growth. I think that’s important.

David: Yeah, I agree. Sounds great Scott.

Scott: Super. So, everyone’s gone through all the info on the shortlist, right? We’ve got Drayton, City Tech, Brightstar and Alamo. Okay? Anyone want to start us off here? Thoughts on these options?

Once the participants have shown they understand the purpose of the meeting, Scott talks about the “shortlist” of tech support companies. Of course, this isn’t the first time the group has talked about the issue. They’ve examined proposals, done research, and narrowed their options down to four companies. Everyone is expected to have reviewed the information about the four companies on the shortlist so they are ready for a discussion. And it’s a discussion Scott wants when he asks someone to “start off” and invites people’s “thoughts” on the options.

What are some other ways we can invite discussion? Let’s run through a few more examples:

So, anyone have any opinions on this issue?

At this point, let’s just throw out any ideas we have about the options.

I’d like to just open it up for comments and opinions.

Anyone want to give us their thoughts on these three candidates?

So, who starts the discussion off?

Kelly: Mind if I open it up Scott?

Scott: No, go ahead Kelly.

Kelly: Well, I know that one of our concerns is cost, right?

Kelly wants to “open it up”, or start off the discussion by talking about cost. She calls this one of their “concerns”, but she could also call it one of several “criteria”. Criteria are the points we consider when evaluating different options. And when we discuss a decision, it’s important to reference these criteria to make sure we make the best decision possible.

Let’s try some other ways of referencing criteria:

Well, I think the first place is a good location, but it’s not as new as we’d like.

Abbot has a great portfolio, and that’s certainly one of the things we wanted to look at.

Let’s consider experience, since that is one of our biggest concerns in choosing a suitable vendor.

So, the first developer is cheaper, but what about design capabilities?

Now listen as Kelly continues her discussion of the different proposals.

Kelly: Because I’m looking here at the different bids and it appears that Drayton comes in quite a bit cheaper than the other three. Just thought I’d point that out ... Something to think about.

Kelly “points out”, or mentions, that Drayton is cheaper than the other three companies. She’s not necessarily pushing this as the best choice, but simply introducing her concerns about cost. How do the others respond?

Anne: For sure... that’s one of our considerations. But I think we have to be a bit careful about emphasizing cost too much. I mean, I see a bit of a problem here with their experience.They’re pretty new, right? And none of their experience is specifically in the engineering field.

Anne begins by agreeing that cost is a consideration. But she follows this with a “but” statement, warning that they should be “a bit careful” about emphasizing cost. This is a way of introducing her concern about Drayton, which is that they lack experience. Or, as Anne says it, she sees “a bit of a problem with their experience.” To emphasize her concern, she uses the question “They’re pretty new, right?”

Asking questions like this helps invite discussion. Rather than asserting a strong opinion, Anne is raising concerns for the entire group to discuss. What are some other ways we can do this? Let’s try a few more examples:

I’m not so sure the printer from Canon will give us the best print quality.

I agree a new outlet is exciting, but I think it might be too soon for expansion.

What about maintenance costs? The first option is going to be more expensive in that respect.

Wait a second. Is a full audit really necessary at this point?

Does everyone agree with Anne that Drayton’s lack of experience is a concern?

Kelly: True enough.

David: Yeah, I’m with you onthat. I don’t think we should cut too many corners on this. We learned our lesson with the last guys, right?

Scott: Good point. So, let’s leave Drayton out of this. What about City Tech?

They’ve got some experience, right? Yes, everyone seems to agree that Anne has made a good point about Drayton’s lack of experience. David reinforces the idea by saying they shouldn’t “cut corners”, or try to save money by choosing cheap and easy options. For these reasons, Scott says they should leave Drayton out. He then raises City Tech for discussion, making sure to point out that they have some experience.

What does David think about this option?

David: Yeah, some. But are they even in Dallas? I thought I saw a Houston address or something. I think we need to figure that out before anything else.

David agrees they have some experience, but he doesn’t know if the company is even located in Dallas, which is where their company is. David wants to figure this out before moving on. He feels they can’t really consider this option without more information. And he wants to be polite in how he requests it, so he follows his question by explaining that he thought he saw a Houston address. And he softens his request by saying “I think we need to” figure it out. It’s common in decision-making meetings to request moreinformation so that you can make the best decision.

Let’s practice some more ways we can do this politely and gently:

Before we go on, we should probably know more about tax law in each state.

Can we get some more details about HWC’s past projects?

I think we’ll need to see that price broken down in greater detail before deciding.

What would really help in this discussion is the safety specs for each machine.

Now do we find out where City Tech is located?

Kelly: Okay, let me just go look that up. Be right back.

It looks like we’ll have to wait until next time to find out if City Tech is close enough  to be an option, as Kelly finishes the dialog by saying she’ll go “look up”, or find out, their location.

 

Vocabulary

To go with someone:

if you “go with” someone or something, you choose or select it; “I considered several different cars, but finally decided to go with the Audi.”

Behind:

in  the  background  of;  “There  was  a  desire  for  greater  stability  behind  the strategic plan.”

Shortlist:

a list of several choices made from a longer list; “I’ve researched all the laptops in our price range and come up with a shortlist of four machines.”

To  start  off:

to  begin  something  in  a  certain  way;  if  you  “start”  a  group  off,  then you  begin  a  discussion;  “Jerry’s  funny  story  really  started  off  the  meeting  on  a positive note.”

To  open  it  up:

to  start  a  discussion  by  being  the  first  to  speak;  also,  to  open  a presentation  or  discussion  up  to  questions  and  comments  from  everyone; “We’re looking at ways to cut costs today, and does anyone want to open it up for us?”

Concern:

something  thought  to  be  important;  “For  an  investor  whose  primary concern is stable returns, I’d advise against new tech stocks.”

To come in:

we can say that a quote, estimate, or cost “comes in” at a certain price or number; “I was happy to see that the contractor’s invoice came in at less than what he quoted us originally.”

To point out:

to mention or tell someone something; “I’d like to just point out that leasing space in the Winfield Mall would be cheaper than renting downtown.”

Consideration:

something  important  that  you  must  think  about  when  making  a decision; “One  of  our  most  important  considerations  when  designing  an  ad campaign should be the target market.”

“True enough”:

we can say “true enough” to agree that someone has made a good point; “A: These meetings go on way too long. B: True enough. Maybe we need a different facilitator.”

With someone on something:

if you are “with” someone “on” something, you agree with them on an opinion; “Thanks Joe, and I’m with you on the idea that we need to control costs.”

To cut corners:

to do things the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way; “Looks like the previous building owners really cut corners on maintenance and repair. The place is in bad shape.”

To  learn  one’s  lesson:

to  have  a  bad  experience  or  make  a  mistake  that  teaches you something; “Let’s avoid finding a hotel in the entertainment district. I learned my lesson at last year’s conference.”

To look something up:

to look for a specific piece of information in a book, a listing, or online; “Joni, could you please go on the government’s website and look up the deadline for the development application.”

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