Almost everyday, I work with leaders who make complex and important decisions in increasingly nuanced and demanding environments. What interferes with them making the most effective decisions is two fold. It is the leaders schedule which is oftentimes filled with back to back meetings, and more importantly it is a lack of a clear framework for making more effective decisions faster. If you want to make better decisions faster I have six strategies to help you do so. that.
Strategy 1. Be crystal clear about the desired outcome. If a leader and their team are not crystal clear about the desired outcome that stems from a decision there isn’t a snowballs chance in Hawaii that an effective decision can be made. Today I had a conversation with a leader who after hearing of a senior leaders admonition that an initiative “could not fail” asked the best and most pressing question. What does failure mean to them? How would they know we’d failed in this area? Without answers to the question about what failure means to the senior leader the propensity of employees is to try and discern what failure means. Guessing in this situation is a recipe for under performance.
Strategy 2. Communicate the decision criteria. What are the must have’s and nice to have’s of your decisions? When purchasing new uniforms one leader pointed to unit costs, quality of uniforms, delivery options and payment terms as his decision making criteria. Marrying these decision criteria with a clear process for comparing one option to another is essential. Are the terms more favorable or less favorable? How will quality be measured? How will we evaluate our current total cost with the new total cost? Keep in mind most everyone will know the what and why of decisions. What they lack is the knowledge of how decisions will be made and measured.
Strategy 3. Clarify the risks associated with a decision. In corporate America, if the risk associated with a poor decision is a loss of $500.00 the need for a clear decision framework is negligible. If the risk of a poor decision is $5,000,000, then knowing the variables that are risky and the probabilities of those risks materializing is a crucial aspect of effective decision making. This strategy requires using an if/then framework. If A happens then we will do B. The ability to think in advance about the risks of important decision allows you to mitigate the negative consequences if they occur.
Strategy 4. Involve trusted and respected people in the decision. When you surround yourself with people who are trustworthy and respected your decision effectiveness and speed increases dramatically. With a high regard for a persons talent and skill and the ability to rely on them to follow the above strategies effectively, your ability to make decisions faster goes up dramatically. One leader recounted that while his team was new in their roles and were rapidly learning the in’s and out’s of their responsibilities and departments, he trusted and respected their instincts and valued their perspectives in ways that made decision making easier.
Strategy 5. Eliminate all distractions. Making faster and more effective decisions requires jettisoning multi-tasking. While on a conference call yesterday I noticed the amount of time between me asking a question and my client giving me an answer was increasing and that the quality of his answers was decreasing. When I asked about this I learned of an important text he received and how he was having to respond while trying to maintain the quality of the conversation with me. This interaction reminded me that having uninterrupted time is a luxury for many leaders and that eliminating distractions is crucial to making the best decisions possible.
Which of these five strategies will help you make faster and more effective decisions?