HomeAnalysisDecision-making is in the success equation

Decision-making is in the success equation

DO you find in your organisation it takes forever to make a decision? Do you face an environment where everyone feels like they need to be included in the decision-making process, and we cannot make a decision until everyone says yes?

People Management Issues with Robert Mandeya

Learning the art and science of business decision-making will certainly improve the quality of your decisions. In this instalment I will explore the four styles of decision making — autocratic, participatory, democratic, and consensual — and reveal which styles are best suited for specific situations. Recognising that ambiguity is a part of any decision-making process, I will also attempt to highlight the four types of ambiguity you will face so that you can recognise what you do not know in order to reduce risk and plan for contingencies.

This is my second instalment on decision-making and I felt, given the importance of this imperative on any successful leader, there is need to revisit this issue and proffer in-depth some the fundamental processes involved in decision-making.

In their popular book, “Judgment”: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls; leadership experts Noel M Tichy and Warren G Bennis (Portfolio, 2007) assert that judgment is the essence of leadership. Over the last couple of years in training, I have found that my most successful executive coaching clients exercise exquisite judgment. They also tend to be very clear in their decision-making.

Decision-making and judgment.

It is important to realise that decision-making is actually a process, and it is the process of selecting a choice from a range of possible options, with the goal of achieving a very specific objective. Now contrast that with judgment. Judgment is the ability to form an opinion or reach a conclusion based on available information plus prior experience.

So as you go to make a decision, there are some important principles to keep in mind. First, be clear about the objective.You need to understand what you are optimising for or trying to achieve as you make that particular decision. Second, decide who gets to decide and who does not. Be clear about who is going to be involved in the decision-making process. You need to define who to involve and how to involve them. Some people are going to provide input, other people will provide perspective on implementation, other people will actually make the decision, and having clarity of roles is criticalfor successful decision-making.

Dealing with ambiguity

Next, you will need to reduce ambiguity and risk as much as is reasonable before making your decision. The way to do that is to gather information, but realise that gathering information takes time, and as you are taking that time, new sources of uncertainty are going to emerge. Next you will need to make your choice and make that choice known to the organisation. Tell people you have made a decision, what the decision is, and why you made it. And then last, once you have made the decision, you need to evaluate and adjust based on new information. So the decision-making cycle that you should think about following goes something like this; first prepare to make the decision, then you actually make the decision, communicate it to people in the organisation, execute, which is to put the decision into action, and measure and adjust accordingly.

Defining the decision

The first step in the decision-making process is clearly defining the decision you are going to make. There are some key questions you should be asking as you are defining the decision. First, what is the desired outcome? Is there a specific metric that you are trying to drive? What are the choices that we are trying to make? And, what are the possible choices that we can choose from? You need to articulate when do we have to decide? As well as thinking through, who is this decision going to affect? If you do not go through these steps of defining the decision, you are going to have unclear objectives. In deciding the introduction of bond notes in Zimbabwe am not sure if government and Reserve Bank authorities considered these questions. Anyway, that is a discussion for another day. In the absence of such a process it may lead you to make a bad choice.

If you do not define all the possible alternatives, you might miss a great opportunity. Further, not being clear about timelines, or who is going to be involved, is going to increase risk, it will cause confusion, and it is going to frustrate people in the decision-making process. In training on this subject I often give participants examples of live decisions that pass the test of clearly defined decisions and those that could not withstand this test.

And by going through the step of clearly defining the decision, you definitely will be able to successfully make a decision up front and execute it well on the back-end. So as you go to make your own decisions, think through this set of five questions and drive that clarity of the decision you are trying to make.

This is an extensive topic which cannot be exhausted on this space but suffice it to say that in decision-making you should help balance the trade-off between speed and accuracy.

Mandeya is a senior executive training consultant and communication in management advisor, a personal coach in leadership and professional development with the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. — lead.inst.dev@gmail.com or mandeyarobert@gmail.com. The views contained herein are personal views.

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