The more important a matter is, the more concerned we are about making the correct decision. In a proportionate way, we want all decisions to be effective, swift and efficient. Another facet of decision making is that in an organizational context, some decisions take forever and may require you to attend a number of meetings, repeating the same arguments and still feeling that there is an even chance that it may not be implemented.
One reason why we may find ourselves in this conundrum is that business issues may have become more complex. You and your organization are not unique in this perspective. We may also spend an inordinate amount of time and energy, evaluating equally or differently attractive options involving trade offs that may require compromises.
Here are five (5) suggestions that could be helpful.
- Beware of anecdotes – Don’t allow a good story to substitute for data. Your experience is a reasonable reflection of reality as you evaluate the questions or concerns of customers, top management or your team. The larger your organization, the more modest consideration anecdotes are awarded. If a decision is important, invest the time to assemble and evaluate the highest quality of actual data that is available to you or a bad decision may result based on incomplete information.
- Involve your team – Just as anecdote are not a substitute for accurate and sufficient data, it is also unlikely that any one person has all the information needed to make high-quality decisions. Develop a process to utilize the knowledge and experience of your team to study the data, and perhaps make a recommendation for your approval. You then have the option to study the issue further or implement the recommendations with or without amendments. You can also defer the decision. To coin a phrase, you could us “D4”: Data, Debate, Decide or Defer.
- Accountability – The person making a decision and implementing it must remain connected. It is necessary to consider implementation equally as important as actually making the decision. Depending on the size of your organization, team and the complexity of the decision implementation, develop a specific implementation plan. The entire implementation could even be delegated, but the action plan is still necessary. The action plan must include: required actions; responsible person(s); due dates; progress report dates and further progress report dates as necessary.
- Routinize – Try to install a routine for predictable and routine decision making. The idea is that if you can install this routine, your team knows what is coming next and to some extent reduce any anxiety.
- Plan for unpredictable choices – For example, if a customer calls for an expedited shipment twice in a three month period, then we will surcharge the order by 2% but not more than $50.00. You could refer to this method as the “if/then” method. This simplistic approach is probably not suitable for larger and unpredictable strategic decisions. Most strategic decisions will involve some participation from Finance, Marketing, Sales and Production. I would recommend developing a plan that specifies the representatives from these functions to meet quickly to assess the necessity for further research and actions.
The path to good decision-making is not always clearly marked. But adopting some of these habits and techniques can help you to become a more effective decision maker.
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