A good friend of mine was relating a story to me recently of when he was younger, and in school. He was taking a woodworking course, and the instructor kept telling everyone in the class to measure twice, and then you only had to cut once. A sound lesson, and one that metaphorically applies to every decision-making process in companies, and in our personal lives – make sure that you are making the right decision, for the right reasons, at the right time; and the chances are that you won’t have to make another decision because the first one didn’t do what you wanted.
There are many reasons for rushing the decision-making process today. Whether it is the perception that something has to be done now because of some competition, or a time-sensitive opportunity, or just real or perceived massive problems, the self-driven pressure to make quick decisions is a curse that is plaguing organisations from all sectors, and of all sizes…and us.
I use the term ‘self-driven’ on purpose, because for the life of me, I cannot believe that anyone would condone making management decisions foolishly. And yet, decisions that are made without enough thought are just that. The excuse is, of course, ‘I can’t afford to take extra time to make the decision.’ This excuse – and that is all it is – is actually, inexcusable.
The whole concept of ‘not having enough time’ should fall on deaf ears, because when decisions are not well thought out, the amount of time (and resources) that is wasted far in excess of what it could have been. Several years ago, I saw a study that had been commissioned to determine overall elapsed time from idea conception to actual effective implementation. The process went something like this: 1: decide what to do; 2: think about what else is going to happen if you go ahead with your decision; 3: make any revisions necessary; 4: ask for some feedback about the decision and if it makes sense; and 5: do it. The overall elapsed time (in the study) was found to be 10 – 40% longer when step 2 was neglected. And regardless of specific situations, 10 – 40% more time equates to additional costs that need not be incurred.
Now to be fair, I don’t know all the specifics of every organisation on this planet, but I do think that I understand that shareholders would not be happy if they knew that because of managerial ineptitude, resources were being wasted for no good reason – resources that could be used far more effectively to helping an organisation realise its potential. This really isn’t all that different about the decisions you or I make.
Here are a few things that decision-makers need to consider:
- Is this decision the most appropriate one at this point in time?
- Will this decision, if I do it effectively, help me realise my potential?
- What will some of the unintended consequences be if the decision is implemented (there are always unintended consequences, so examine both the positive and negative ones)?
- What resources will I need, if any, if I turn on the decision?
- Do I have, or have access to, the resources I will need?
- Will I need the support of others to make the decision become real?
- What am I missing?
If decision-makers take the time to run through this short check-list (and believe it or not, the time needed to do this is nothing compared to what will be needed to fix the problems incurred with a bad decision), they will find that their jobs will become easier. If the decision-makers jobs become easier, it will mean that they are becoming more effective.
And lets be clear…I am by no means saying that decision-makers should become paralysed with fear that they might do the wrong thing. I am saying that they need to learn from previous decision errors and be conscious of the decisions they are making, and the ramifications of them. And at the end of the day, it is effective decision-making that can make or break a company, or you. Measure twice, cut once…sound advice for all decision-makers.
By Dr. James B Rieley
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