Making decisions is not always easy, but when you delay an important decision, it is usually less effective. Procrastination and compromise are the enemies of good decision-making, so create a strategy that helps you make the best possible decisions every time. Here is a 10-step plan to help you the next time you have to assess a situation and decide on an appropriate course of action.
Analyze the reason why you need to make the decision. It is easy to focus on the symptoms causing the need for a decision. Dealing with symptoms, however, leads to short-term solutions; it is only when your decision also takes into account the root cause that you will have long-term answers. Your decision should also include a forward-thinking strategy that deals with the underlying issues.
Get other people’s opinions, but choose wisely. Seek out people with relevant experience and those closest to the action – people on the front line.
Don’t seek consensus. Consensus leads to a situation where everyone can live with the decision, but no one likes it. Decisions made with the idea of offending the least number of people are rarely popular with anyone and are usually ineffective. A good decision does not have to be well-liked.
Step back and carry out a cost-benefit analysis of your options. Compare the decisions you could make and consider their benefits and risks in the short and long term. Play the “what-if” game, especially when considering each decision's best and worst-case scenarios.
Don’t delay making a decision. Gather the facts and act in a timely fashion. The problem with taking time to decide is that everything is in a state of flux. By delaying your decision, you are in danger of taking action that is no longer appropriate. Think about your past decisions. Were the outcomes of decisions you laboured over for weeks any better than those where you took decisive action? Not making a decision is deciding to retain the status quo, which has ramifications. Set yourself a time limit on making a decision and stick to it.
Don’t be tempted to constantly make decisions that affect only the short-term situation. Find a balance that incorporates decisions focused on the longer time frame.
Take responsibility for your decisions, and own them, regardless of whether they were well received by those around you. Your team will have faith in your leadership if you show that you are taking control and being decisive.
Communication is key to successful decision-making. Be open and transparent with all stakeholders, and tell them how and why you made the decision and the logic you used. Even if people don’t like your decision, they are more likely to respect you if they understand the process you undertook to reach it.
Hindsight is 20/20. Don’t beat yourself up when you review past decisions. Later, when you have the luxury of seeing how everything panned out, you will see the situation in a way that was not open to you initially.
Regularly review past decisions and evaluate how effective they were. Ask yourself, could I have done things differently given the information available at the time? What other resources could I have employed to ensure a better outcome?
You must make decisions whether in a leadership position or running a one-person business. However, how and when you make those decisions will directly affect outcomes. Your biggest risk lies in doing nothing or doing it too late.
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