We all make a series of decisions every day, some of passing importance—‘Should I really order an extra shot of espresso in this morning’s latte?’—and others of much greater significance: ‘Do I go for my MBA right after graduating or get a few years’ of work experience under my belt first?’ Those in leadership positions are called upon to make a series of decisions each day, and according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, their success oftentimes turns on being able to do so in a way that is “fast and roughly right” rather than “precise and slow.”
Sounds good in theory, but what does it mean in practical terms? Embracing a flexible framework of ‘Know-Think-Do’, counsels Nick Tasler, author of the forthcoming book Why Quitters Win: Decide to be Excellent. Doing so will allow you to make good decisions faster, says Tasler, and move on down the road.
The Three Steps
- Know the ultimate strategic objective. As anyone faced with a big decision knows, it’s easy to get bogged down in details. Analysis paralysis can set in quickly if you let it. Don’t succumb—consider the objectives you hope to meet with this decision, and then choose to address the one or two that will make the biggest impact. Assess your shareholders in the same way—decide which one you’d least like to disappoint and identify which objective he’ll care about most.
- Think rationally about how your options align the ultimate objective. When faced with a decision, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. Tasler recommends avoiding this trap by “consulting an Anti-You.” Talk the pros and cons through with someone else—a fresh set of eyes is bound to bring new insights and perspective.
- Do something with that knowledge and those thoughts. Once you’ve identified your primary objectives and run your options up the flagpole with one or two ‘Anti-Yous,’ it’s time to make your decision. No more number crunching, perseverating or debating, make the best choice you can and move on. “No amount of deliberation can ever guarantee that you have identified the ‘right’ option,” Tasler asserts. “The purpose of a decision is not to find the perfect option. The purpose of a decision is to get you to the next decision.”
- Gathering input from another can be a great way to suss out the weaknesses in your thought process or get a fresh perspective on the issue. When choosing your sounding board, however, keep in mind:
- Credibility: Is your source trustworthy? Will she tell you what you want to hear or give you her honest opinion?
- Bias: Does your source have a hidden agenda?
- The motivation for making the decision: What would happen if you do nothing?
- The cost/benefit analysis: Do the perceived benefits outweigh the projected costs?
- The risk/reward ratio: Are the odds in your favor, or are they stacked against you?
- Is it the right thing to do? Making a decision that everyone likes is easy—standing up for what’s right in the face of adversity can be tough. Compromising to get a step up on the competition may be compelling, but character and values should always come first.
The ability to make efficient, effective decisions is a prized skill for any leader. By embracing a simple, easily implemented framework, you can dramatically increase your chances of mastering this skill and making your life, and your business, run more smoothly.