“The best way to make a decision is to do your worrying before you place your bet. In other words, do everything you can to first make sure the right decision is made. But once you’ve made that decision and execution is the order of the day, then stop worrying and fretting about the outcome.”

(James Van Fleet in ‘The 22 Biggest Mistakes Managers Make’.)

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Make it easier to decide

Most of us are faced with hundreds of decisions a day and the choices we make can affect our lives and others’ lives, too. Consider these steps to make the decision-making process less traumatic:

Frame the ‘question’ requiring a decision positively. In their book, ‘Decision Traps’, Russo and Shoemaker noted that, when managers were told that a certain corporate strategy had a 70 per cent chance of success, most favoured it. But when the strategy was described as carrying a 30 per cent risk of failure, they voted it down.

Do your homework. Research can make or break a decision so gather the information you need. · Explore options. Rarely is there one solution to a problem.

Listen to your instincts. ‘Intuition’ has been described as what we know for sure without knowing for certain.

Take small steps. Incrementalism is an accepted decision-making approach.

Stay flexible. Rarely is stay-put behaviour the best option.

Set a deadline – or you can dither forever.

 

Four secrets

On decision making, Wess Roberts in ‘Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun’ says:

  • Every decision involves some risk.
  • Time does not always improve a situation.
  • Fundamental errors are inescapable when the unqualified are allowed to exercise judgement and make decisions.
  • Quick decisions are not always the best decisions. On the other hand, unhurried decisions are not always the best decisions.

 

Colin Powell on decision making

When faced with a decision, like picking somebody for a post or choosing a course of action, former US army general and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell says that he dredges up every scrap of knowledge he can.

“I call in people. I phone them. I read whatever I can get my hands on. I use my intellect to inform my instinct. Then I use my instinct to test all this data. ‘Hey, instinct, does this sound right? Does it smell right, feel right, fit right?’

However, we do not have the luxury of collecting information indefinitely. At some point, before we can have every possible fact in hand, we have to decide. The key is not to make quick decisions, but to make timely decisions.”

From My American Journey, with Joseph Perisco.

 

When not to make a decision

Being an effective decision-maker suggests that you are in control and prepared to be responsive. Nevertheless, there are times when it can be better not to decide something. For example:

  • Don’t decide to do something when you don’t have all the facts. Investigate, study the problem, collect data, and be prepared for when you must make the decision.
  • Don’t make a decision until you are sure of its consequences. Situations can change quickly. Waiting will enable you to prepare to reverse yourself in the event that the consequences of your ultimate decision are not favorable.
  • Don’t make a decision until all other important viewpoints that could affect its acceptability have been canvassed.
  • Don’t make a decision if you feel uncomfortable about it. If it doesn’t jibe with your intuition, check your hunch, particularly if your decision involves people.
  • Don’t make a decision if you feel you are being pushed. Stall if you believe people are pushing you for what they can get out of it, not for what you or the organisation will. In time they may show their hand, allowing you to see the issue in a different light.

 

The good decision-maker

For a good decision-maker, look to the enthusiastic person, the one who shows innovation and imagination when expressing himself or herself. Such an individual demonstrates both creativity and versatility. He or she is not satisfied to handle today’s problems the same as yesterday’s. Decision-making involves treading a path between two extremes – procrastination or impulsive action. Yet when a call for action is urgent, even a poor decision may be better than none. Since making a clear, decisive judgement is sometimes difficult, managerial decisions often turn out to be compromises, even though such solutions are appalling to the strong, committed-to-the-job executive.

Decision Making for First-Time Managers by W.H.Weiss, Amacom, NY, 1985, p. 7.

 

Push it down

One of the basic principles of good management is that decisions should be made at the lowest feasible level in the organisation. This puts decisions as close as possible to the area where they are to be implemented. With this precept, any attempts to avoid making decisions where they should be made or to pass them to a higher authority should be resisted.

Decision Making for First-Time Managers by W.H.Weiss, Amacom, NY, 1985, p. 7.

 

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