8 Timely Decision-Making Guidelines
08/22/2012 — Scott Frederick
As a 22+ year veteran of the business world, a common challenge I have faced - both individually and collectively - is the dilemma of getting decisions made in a timely manner. That's why the following tips provided in a recent report from Keith Prather at Armada Executive Intelligence really caught my eye.
Keith works with many big and small organizations on planning and strategy, and he often sees executives spending too much time on too many decisions. He suggests that one strategy for faster decision making is to invest less time on so many decisions. To accomplish this seemingly improbably goal, Keith recommends developing some self-imposed guidelines for identifying decisions where you need to be involved but don't need to spend so much time getting ready to decide what to do. He recommends eight potential guidelines across three categories where you can accelerate your decision making process:
Decisions with Less Potential Impact
1. Non-strategic issues - Many business people equate strategic with "long-term" decisions. But in reality, strategic isn't defined by a time horizon. Strategic involves areas having a material impact on the business. If a decision's ultimate outcome and implementation lack real significance or visibility for a business, try to limit how much time you spend on making it.
2. Current alternatives are adequate to meet expectations — It's popular to suggest one key to success is a willingness to purposely change things that appear to be working. That can be true in areas important to a business and its customers/clients. If it's a process or activity that is required but takes place in the background and could work in a variety of acceptable ways, however, it's best to decide quickly and move on without trying to reinvent the entire operation.
3. There's plenty of runway to recover from a poor decision — As more processes, services, and even products become digitized, development and recovery costs from something being slightly off the mark are reduced. In these instances, don't overdesign or over-engineer a decision when there is ample opportunity to introduce, test, diagnose, and correct with minimal downsides.
4. It is likely customers will be indifferent to the options being considered — We've seen too much time wasted at businesses agonizing over service and product enhancements so slight that customers will be hard-pressed to EVER notice the difference. If you have a couple of decent decision options on a product or service feature change that is already low on the list of what's important to customers, it's quick decision time.
Decisions that can be More Standardized
5. Decision policies or guidelines already exist — We've seen the human tendency toward boredom used either directly or indirectly as a motivation for overdramatizing what should be routine decisions. When team members have been focused on a narrow area of the organization for too long, even minor decisions can seem like they could change the world. When you have a policy that's working on routine decisions, let the policy work and invest time on bigger issues that really do have some potential for impact.
6. You have a reasonable track record from which to decide — Even where there's a general track record on the results a decision you're considering may yield, people in the business can be overly invested in arguing for a path that feels comfortable or protects a personal agenda. When you sense this is happening, cut short the debate and go with what your experience suggests is the best course of action.
7. You don't have resources for prolonged exploration — An important variable for decision making (i.e., time, people availability, investment for attractive decisions, etc.) may be constrained. If that's the case, forego the intellectual attractiveness of giving a decision everything the business has; it's simply not practical. If this is your situation, shift to eliminating options that aren't viable and quickly get to what you CAN decide to do and implement.
8. You've got no chance of selling in a preferred alternative — Hope springs eternal, but perhaps you find yourself having already unsuccessfully made your best case to sell an internal or external customer on a decision you think they should make. At some point, when you know the customer isn't going to decide in your favor, but still won't say —No,' it can be in your own best interests to say it yourself. With a firm decline, you can free yourself to move on to fight for a different decision on another day.
So what do you do to speed decisions in your organization?
Adopting decision guidelines that make sense for your business and reflect your decision style and pressure points can be a big time saver. The key is to do your thinking upfront (and to continue adding to this list) so you can easily recognize situations where taking more time to get ready to decide is simply not a good investment of resources.
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