How do you convert expert, often conflicting, opinions into useful insights?
How do you foster efficient group decision-making in an effective manner?
How do you learn from past decisions (those made by you, and by others)?
Executives rate the ability to make decisions as the single most important of all business skills, yet few have the training needed to make good decisions consistently. Decisions are often made lacking complete information, in less time than needed, and with little to no skill beyond intuition simple logic applied.
With dynamic business environments and information overload being the new “normal”, the old-fashioned way of making decisions intuitively is no longer a viable business option. Decisions by status quo, intuition, or simple logic, are not enough to achieve optimal results. Why doesn’t intuition work? Well, it might if you’re simply trying to decide on a non-complex problem, such as what time to hold a meeting, but for more complex problems that require several areas of consideration (such as cost, timeliness, personnel resource skills and/or availability, etc.), a decision making process is necessary.
The skill of effective decision-making is often assumed to be within any decision-maker, but it is not as easy as you might think. To learn from your decisions, a process will help you understand what went right, what went wrong, and allow for iterative improvements based on the decision outcome and assessment of the actual decision inputs. If your primary means of decision making is through meetings with a Bunch Of Guys/Gals Sitting Around a Table (BOGSAT), making consensus-based, intuitive decisions, you will never have decision accountability, or the ability to go back and assess what went right / wrong with the decision. Not having the ability to assess the decision approach and components leaves you with making the same mistakes over and over – never having the opportunity to improve on your decision-approach, and ultimately on your decision results.
Speaking of decision outcomes, do you know what the true result of your decision was? For example, if you decided to allow a $3 Million purchase of IT equipment to perform a specific function or task, do you know if that task performed as expected? Do you know if the exact $3 Million was spent, and how? Was it enough, or too much? You’ll likely only hear back if the $3 Million wasn’t enough, and you’ll likely hear only the highest level of “yes, it worked”, or perhaps “It did was we wanted, congratulations”. But HOW much is it doing what you wanted, and was that $3 Million spent, spent in a way that optimized your achievement overall? How do you know when an implementation is “good enough” if you haven’t defined – upfront and concisely – your expectations of the outcome in the first place?
If you don’t have complete strategic alignment, then you don’t have the understanding of 1) What your organization is ultimately trying to achieve and 2) How, specifically, you are going to get there. You should be able to trace every single resource (person, piece of equipment, money, etc.) used to achieve any given strategic objective. It doesn’t matter if you are an organization operating within “agile” execution methods, or under the old-school Project Management Framework (which are really one in the same, both call for iteration – but I won’t dive into that in this article), you should know exactly how you’re spending your money and what results you are both expecting, and actually getting from those expenses. Not only should you IF you are or are not achieving the expected results, but you should know by how much. Yes, that’s right. Even the intangibles can be translated into quantifiable – but meaningful – measures with some thought. In fact, for many organizations the intangibles are more important than the tangibles – achieving the intangibles are what drive positive tangible results (such as profits).
There is a lot that goes into decision making, and a lot of it ties into prioritization and execution, if you want to look at the big picture. The big picture (strategy) has to be clearly understand in enough detail, with enough clarity to be able to give to people to know and understand concisely enough how to implement the decision. This, of course, goes beyond just the skill of decision making itself. Once the decision is made, you must be prepared to properly communicate it, or the decision will render itself useless – almost like it never even happened.
Let’s face it – anyone can make a decision. But those who can make a GOOD decision are those that understand all the inputs of that decision, the upfront expectation of that decision, how – specifically – that decision will impact the overall strategy, how that decision will be communicated, and ultimately – how that decision will be implemented and achieved.
Stay tuned for more information relating to solid decision making practices in the coming weeks! You can check us out on Facebook, too!