People are afraid to make decisions (especially in this economy). They sometimes believe (erroneously for the most part) they’re better off making no decision than making an incorrect one. By not making a decision, they think they can’t be canned for being wrong.
The problem is they’re supposed to be leaders. And leaders have to lead. When decisions aren’t made, organizations stagnate and eventually go down the tubes (and that’s when the really hard decisions have to be made… General Motors anyone?).
Deciding to not make a decision is still a decision (and often a bad one). Deciding to do more analysis rather than acting is still a decision (again, often a bad one). Indecision is only a good thing when it’s on The Colbert Report.
I’m not advocating making decisions absent data. One of my favorite sayings is “In God we trust. All others bring data.” What I am advocating is making a decision, acknowledging you might be wrong, and either maintaining course if the decision was correct or changing course if you get new information that indicates a better path.
So how can you break out of analysis paralysis? There are a few critical behaviors you can adopt. Allow me to introduce the 4 D’s of decision making (sorry… it’s not the 5 D’s of Dodgeball which, admittedly, would be really fun).
Define the Decision to be Made
In our complex organizations, defining the decision can be difficult. First, it’s a step we often skip and assume everyone knows what we’re trying to decide. Spell it out on paper and be precise about the exact decision we’re making.
When we say “we’re trying to decide whether to invest in this new technology” it can seem overwhelming. Saying “we’re deciding whether to pilot this new technology at one of our facilities” is a much different decision (and much easier to make).
Determine the Data You Need
We throw around the term “the 80/20 rule” a lot but don’t abide by it (and some of us don’t even know the true definition of it). We’ll go out and gather 115% of the data we need rather than the 20% that is sufficient to make a call with some calculated risk.
Some leaders use analysis as a delaying tactic so they don’t have to take a risk and make a decision. The problem is a decision never gets made.
Spell out the small set of critical analyses or data points you need and nail them. Realize other pieces of data are helpful but they quickly approach diminishing returns on the incremental information you gather. Once you have your critical data elements, it’s time to be a leader.
That’s right. Decide. You get paid the big bucks to be a leader. This is where you earn them.
Make your decision based on the best-available data. Make it clear to your organization that you’re making the call and spell out exactly what that call is (e.g., “We’re going to pilot the new system at the Bridgeport location for three months.”). Leave no room for confusion.
Accept the fact you might be making the wrong call. Hopefully you’ve gathered the right information in the previous step and you’ve surrounded yourself with good people who can aid you in your decision making. If you’ve done those things, you’re going to make the right decision most of the time. But sometimes you won’t…
There are few decisions in life that are irrevocable. When you realize you’ve made an incorrect decision (usually because new data have come to light), just correct your course.
Investments you made are sunk costs. You can’t recover them. Get over it. Make a new decision based on what you now know.
Yes, you’ll have to admit you were wrong. The best leaders out there have that ability. Give it a try. “I made xyz decision and it was incorrect because we missed this piece of data. Knowing that, we’re now going to make abc decision.”
People want to follow decisive leaders. They want to slam their heads off the desk when they work for indecisive ones. Which type of leader do you want to be? What decisions have you been delaying?
Step up. Make a decision today.