Making sound decisions is a crucial part of successful management – you will be hard pressed to find anyone arguing against it. Never the less, finding managers who fail to take the required decisions when needed is as easy as finding an overdue loan in Greece. Realizing the dynamics of decisions making, and even more important the consequence of failure, is the key.

All the facts…

Decisions are often halted due to a lack of facts. As the complexity of today’s business increased the need for facts rockets through the roof. The hesitant, insecure, or just plain risk averse manager always needs more facts, another analysis, or even notes he has already seen twice – attempting to freeze time until he has gotten a grasp the issue at hand. Very often by the time a decision is finally ready the moment has passed, the window of opportunity has closed and by default nothing was done. It doesn’t matter if you have the best offer if you submit it to late, someone else will get the contract.

Think of a ball player dribbling the ball up the court at full speed considering to pass, make a fake, shoot etc. He will have to evaluate the situation on the very limited information he has that very second. The very least he can do is to stop and call a play – you just can’t dribble around forever. (Even though some players try each week – I will give you that.

Who did panic ever help?

As a manager you are presented with many issues and ideas, odds are some of them will be immature or simply bad ideas. These are the easy kills. But some propositions will have tremendous impact or carry great risks. These situations require a greater degree of certainty than most. In basketball refereeing each referee makes many decisions each game – they must be quick and firm. But sometimes late in a tied game the unexpected happens – a strange combination of fouls, technical issues, or similar. In these situations the referees must not be quick but be thorough and make sure to be right.

Find your slot

All decisions have a time and place – identify it before you make it. If a quick decision is needed evaluate what you know, make a decision and try to minimize the risks of your lack of total insight. But most important use your knowledge of your own window of opportunity to make sure you spend your time correctly – the perfect decision five seconds to late is like trying to win a race that already over.

Is it worth it?

Preparing decision will take up a lot of staff time and resources. Spend it wisely. Who would want to spend weeks discussing which coffee brand to buy while your sales are falling off the charts? There must be some proportion between the magnitude and impact of the decision and the time spend preparing it. Otherwise you are wasting valuable resources and your important issues might not be getting the attention they need.

Make or break

No window is open forever, but sometimes you need to take your time – the referee making the game deciding decision or the CEO launching the new strategy. Sometimes you simply can’t afford to miss. But don’t trick yourself into believing all of your decisions are those crucial crunch-time decisions or your will be straight in hesitant-hell.

Who is in charge here?

Decisions are there to be made every day. If you feel bad about making yours perhaps you should read my Leader or Lemming blog. Otherwise just consider your options and act. Making the conscious “no decision”, to let it lie for a while, can be an option. Sometimes the process of working it over again, and letting the issue mature within the organization can be helpful. But in the end a call must be made – are you going to make yours?


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