My decision-making skills closely resemble that of a squirrel crossing the street.
An anonymous manager who was too embarrassed to claim this quote…
Each day, managers make decisions that impact them, their team (function), their organization and their community. Decisions can be very easy and they can also be very difficult.
The path to decision-making is sometimes very complicated. Sometimes we put off decisions through procrastination, avoidance, indecision or we are afraid of pushback and, therefore, are unwilling and unable to move ahead. Other times we’re not sure who should make the decision. Also, there is always the potential for a decision that we make to be impractical, wrong or detrimental to us personally and our team’s efforts.
The way you go about defining an issue, opportunity or problem is essential for making decisions and directly impacts all that follows. It influences what information you collect, how you evaluate it and who you decide to collaborate with to brainstorm ideas and make decisions. For example, if you define the problem as a lack of knowledge and/or skill you may look for solutions related to training and development. But if you look at the problem as a lack of information and expectations, you might need to take a look at job descriptions and the way in which expectations are being set.
When you are faced with making decisions, as all managers are, it is important to tie those decisions to strategy, use proven problem-solving methods, take timing into consideration, incorporate teamwork into the decision-making process and select your best option.
Some questions to ask on the path to decision-making are (NOTE: Not all of these questions will be required for every decision, but they are meant to give you some ideas of the kinds of questions to ask that facilitate making sound decisions):
- What do we want to accomplish? What is the outcome we desire?
- What are the criteria we need to establish for this decision?
- What information do we need to gather? Who has this information? How will we analyze this information in relation to our decision-making criteria?
- Have we considered strategic issues? How will we ensure this decision is aligned with our vision, mission, goals and objectives? Have we considered both short-term and long-term consequences?
- Who can provide insight or guidance to let us know if this decision is aligned?
- How will we know if this decision has been made with sound logic and rationale?
- In spite of uncertainty and ambiguity, how can we advance this problem, opportunity or issue towards a solution?
Some considerations to take into account are resisting impulsiveness, making decisions with too little information or the wrong information as these can result in having to revisit the issue, opportunity or problem over and over again. To avoid this temptation, try incorporating a Lean Six Sigma mindset of first time right. It may take you a little longer, but with this kind of focus you will avoid rework and non-value added activities.
As a manager, a large part of your effectiveness will be judged by your ability to be accountable and take responsibility for your decisions. Whether or not you act decisively will also be judged as will your ability to make timely decisions on issues, opportunities and problems that require immediate attention. To maximize your probability of success in decision-making choose the best alternative based on your evaluation of pros, cons, trade-offs, available resources and timing.
Each day, your duties as manager require you to make decisions that impact your team and organization. By incorporating a consistent method into your decision-making, you will become better at problem solving, addressing issues and capitalizing on opportunities. It is important to understand that these skills take time to develop and so it’s important that you have the desire and commitment to improve on the path to peak performance. So, how does decision making affect you as a manager? Your success and the success of your team depend upon the decisions you make with the information, time and resources that are available.