How Do You Make Complex Decisions?


When I’ve asked managers how they make important decisions, I get responses like:

“Who can say. We talk about an issue and after a lot of back-and-forth propositions and challenges, an option sometimes emerges.”

“We discuss and discuss. We may not even agree on the problem.”

“It’s like trying to get a pro golfer to explain how he hits a ball so far. We just do it.”

Too often, leaders plunge into discussions that just keep churning and churning until there is a brewing chaos. Amidst doubt and confusion members adjourn without a clear direction. Or worse, members agree to a watered-down option for which there is only lukewarm support.

To avoid endless delays or high-risk moon shots, present an issue and discuss until key players agree on the exact problem. Set a deadline for making the decision. Create a climate that encourages vigorous debate of multiple options. View differing opinions as helpful. Take no votes or polls.

Strive for an option that most all can, at least to some extent, support. If no such option emerges, the leader makes the call. Close by saying, “This is what we are going to do and I need everyone’s commitment.”

Fast is better than Slow


Vendor:  “There will be about a two-week delay in the delivery of your supplies.”

Customer:  “It may be another four weeks before we get our revised specifications to you.”

Project Manager:  “We’ll need another three or four weeks to complete the project.”

A print company increased its business dramatically by promising and delivering product with much shorter lead times.   A manufacturer of auto accessories doubled its business in three years by shrinking delivery times.  A retail outlet increased profits and reduced labor costs by anticipating customer questions and resolving issues in their first communication.

News alert—speed adds value.

Surprisingly to many, it is often possible to be faster and better at the same time.  Look to increase speed in multiple ways–shorten meetings, schedule fewer meetings, time agenda items, create deadlines on everything, make the decision (If it does not work, change it.), reduce approval processes, ensure that people have the talent to perform their jobs, time every major task, complete lesser tasks quickly, assume your day ends at noon.

Make it a point to deliver some items ahead of schedule.  Money swirls down the drain when projects, decisions and deliveries take too long.  Contrary to the fable, fast is better than slow.