Albu On Strategy

Three Tips for Making Faster & Better Decisions

As we approach the end of the year, many companies are probably in the midst of strategic planning and this is a time when the quality of your decision is very important.  We thought it would be a good time to share some tips to improve the quality your decision making.

Having facilitated 100s of strategic planning assignments over 19 years, we have realized that our clients’ success in achieving their strategic objectives is dependent on their ability to make good and timely strategic decisions. We have seen clients struggle to achieve their strategic plans because they made bad decisions, or could not make timely decisions. The following three steps will help you realize the results you want.

Identify the Strategic Objective. Decision making will be slow or even paralyzed if the long-term strategic objective of the decision is not identified. The risk is that you will drown in decision criteria as you try to assess every goal. As Ram Charan, business advisor and author said about the best decision makers, “…They are clear about the end goal, what goal has to be achieved? In their thinking they are precise, they are clear, and they are unambiguous.” Ram’s observation raises the importance for organizations to have a strategy which clearly identifies strategic objectives to assist employees in effectively making faster decisions.

Consider Alternatives. In making good decisions it is critical that differing choices are considered.
First, consider opposing viewpoints so as to make sure the decision is not undermined by the biases inherent in your intuitive system of fast, automatic, effortless and emotional decision making. It wasn’t long ago that the intuition based decisions of Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix caused an alarming loss of customers and market value (AlbuonStrategy 11.2011).

Second, consider diverse ideas. You need to look at things from different perspectives. Many of the complex issues and problems you are dealing with are being driven or influenced by broader external trends or occurrences. Integrating inputs from diverse internal and external sources will provide not just better informed decisions, but also more creative options (The Future is Scary. Creative Thinking Can Help, HBR Blog).

Why do CEO’s and their leadership team’s fall into the trap of not considering alternatives in making strategic decisions? Often it can be attributed to time pressures, cost constraints and/or too much information. To overcome these hurdles, notable companies such as Ford and Southwest Airlines have established integrated decision processes to make better strategic decisions. The next time you are presented a recommended course of action, it can be as easy as asking “what alternatives did you consider and reject?” And “why?”

Execute the Decision. To make better and faster decisions, change your mindset. Our overriding focus is on the act of making the decision, driven by our need to make the “right” decision, which slows us down in an attempt to achieve perfection. We lose sight of the prime objective of making a decision — taking action. Remember, decision-making is a practice to help us cope with the uncertainty of the future, and no amount analysis will guarantee the “right” option.  Your objective of making a decision is so you can take action and get to the next decision. You will only know if your decisions were “right” if they were executed and they helped you achieve your strategic objective.

These insights won’t guarantee success, but they will greatly increase your ability to make better and faster decisions. We are always interested in your thoughts and comments, so please e-mail us about your experiences. We’d like to hear from you.

Posted in Leadership, Newsletter.