Many decision making processes are burdensome and slow. The faster you can make better decisions, the better your organization will perform. Here’s some guidance on how to make those better, faster decisions.
The other day I had the privilege of being interviewed by Dave Crenshaw on the topic of decision making. Here’s a piece of our conversation.
DAVE: So let’s talk a little bit about decision-making. Funny, just before this call, I was working with somebody. They said they were a horrible decision maker. What do you typically see as the biggest problem people have when it comes to making decisions?
MIKE: I think there are issues in terms of the style. It’s the biggest one that I see. And in organizations, we tend to default to a consensus-based decision-making style, where we can’t make a decision until everybody has been briefed, and everybody agrees. Unfortunately, that’s not necessary with the right decision-making style for a lot of decisions we are making every day. That approach tends to slow things down and gum things up.
DC: Why do you feel we’re so dependent on the opinions of others when it comes to that decision?
MF: There are a few reasons. The first one is we want to make people feel they were included in the decision-making process.
MF: Second, it’s a way to spread risk. If I make the decision alone and it goes wrong, then it all falls on me. If I involve ten other people, then I can point nine fingers, right? Including others is a way to distribute that risk among other people.
The third reason is the decisions are big and complex, and we don’t break them down. Therefore, we need to gather so much more information from other folks. But you can adapt to different styles of decision-making, where you break that decision into smaller ones, and you don’t need as much input necessarily.
DC: Okay. So I am a big fan of focusing on the end result. So typically, the end result if someone makes the decision based on group consensus is what?
MF: Well, I think the desired use of consensus-based decision-making is for those big decisions where we need a lot of inputs, but we’ve also got a lot of time available to us. In those environments, you can go the consensus route. One of the big benefits of doing so is, on the back end, you have much less execution risk. You don’t have people who are going to be passive-aggressively blocking your idea because “I didn’t have input into the process”.
MF: The consensus-based approach does get you that organizational support on the back end but there’s a huge cost in terms of time to get the decision made.
DC: I think that’s very relevant for this audience because time is typically not a luxury that we have. In fact, often that’s a competitive advantage we have over the big companies. So Mike I am hoping you could guide us on a better process of making decisions. Where’s the first place to start if we want to make better decisions, not going the typical route?
MF: I think the first thing is you have to be clear on the goal of the decision that you’re trying to make and articulate “Here are the choices that we’ve got in front of us. So we could go left, we could go right.”
Once you’ve got that goal defined, then you have to decide explicitly on a decision-making style. The way I look at that is—how big is the decision and how fast do we need to make it. For something that needs more speed, you go the autocratic route where “I am the decider, I am not going to get any input. I am just making the call.” If I have a little bit more time, I may go democratic and “Hey, a show of hands who wants to go left, a show of hands who wants to go right.” That way we can get it done pretty quickly.
More often than not, I am an advocate of the participatory decision-making style, where you get some limited input from a small group of people. But then you move on with life, and everybody else is just informed in the process. The choice of a decision-making style is going to do a lot to drive the speed of the decision that you’re making.
DC: I like what you’re saying because essentially you’re telling us “Look, there’s not one right way to make a decision every time.” It’s more like choosing what’s the right pair of clothing to wear for the activity that you’re doing, right?
MF: Yes. That’s correct.
If you’d like to listen to the audio transcript of our entire conversation, CLICK HERE and catch the rest of it.
Want to learn more about this topic? How about taking an entire course on it? Check out our Deliberate Decision Making course.
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