What makes a good decision? How would I know one if I saw it? In the last several weeks I have had a number of conversations with clients about decision making. Each conversation started out focusing on a different issue yet each came back to “making good decisions.” One conversation began by discussing “initiative”, several were based around “procrastination”, another was focused on “paralysis by analysis” and the most recent dealt with the fear of making a mistake. The common root of all of these conversations was the ability, or inability, of individuals to make good business decisions.
Not all good business decisions will turn out, in hindsight, to be the best decisions. Perfection is not a quality I am familiar with and fortunately it is not a requirement for good decisions. The goal then is to maximize the likelihood that the decisions made turn out to be the right ones. How does one do that?
I believe that there are four elements to making good decisions. My experience is that if these four elements are incorporated into any decision-making process, the final choice will prove to be the best choice much more often than not.
Gather all of the information that is available. There are two considerations that enter into this element, data and time. Rarely in any decision making process will 100% of the data be available to you, or at least be available to you in the time frame within which the decision must be made. The information gathering process is foundational to making good decisions. Taking short cuts here will skew the results of the subsequent elements in the process.
Know the choices that are available to you. Too often decision-making processes fall into the “verdict in search of evidence” category. When we lock onto one option, we automatically lock out all other options, perhaps even the best option. Let the data identify the options, not the other way around. Take care to ensure that the choices you identify are feasible and implementable.
Understand the consequences of each choice. Every decision has consequences, both intended and unintended. Unfortunately for decision makers, the consequences are usually determined by other parties such as bosses, customers or competitors. Evaluating the risk associated with each choice is central to good decision making.
Make the best call. For some, this is the most difficult part of the process and frequently indicates that a less-than-thorough effort was put into the first three elements of the process. This is where data combined with intuition can be a decision maker’s greatest asset. Trust your data. Trust your intuition. Make the call.
We must also understand that not making a decision is in fact a decision to do nothing. If the information, choices and consequences support “doing nothing”, then that would be the best call. However, a non-decision based upon fear of consequences or failure to fully engage the process is an abdication of responsibility and will likely have consequences as well.
Each decision brings with it a unique set of challenges. Employing a systematic approach to decision making can help ensure that no matter what type of decision you need to make, you can make it unemotionally and with confidence that you have maximized your opportunity to make a good decision.
If your organization is having difficulty with making good decisions, we can help. Get in touch with us by using the Contact Us tab on the left side of the page or by using the information found on the Contact Info tab.