Five More Minutes With Spends Five Minutes Making Decisions, Decisions

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on December 9, 2013

Brad Rex photo

In today’s post, our frequent guest columnist, Brad Rex, weighs in on the importance of making the correct decision.

“Decisions, Decisions” is an excerpt from his book, “The Surpassing! Life.”

Decisions, Decisions

An executive is a person who always decides; sometimes he decides correctly, but he always decides.–John H. Patterson

Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.–J.K Rowling

You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself

any direction you choose.

You’re on your own.

And you know what you know.

And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go . . .–Dr. Seuss

Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.–Napoleon I

Leaders make decisions. The quality of those decisions determines the effectiveness of the leader and the organization. Given the importance of making great decisions, how can a leader enhance the quality of his or her decisions?

Over the years, I’ve refined my decision-making process, and suggest that you may want to apply many of these same steps when you have to make important decisions.

First, determine the amount of time you have to make a decision. In the event of a casualty situation, decision-making time may be extremely short, and therefore you need to act quickly on limited information. If your house is on fire, it’s a quick and easy decision to immediately call 911. When I faced engineering drills on a nuclear submarine or led Epcot on 9/11, I had to make immediate choices. You gather as much information as fast as you can, and then rely on your experience and training to make the best decision possible.

Often, though, people are pressured into making hasty decisions by artificial deadlines. “If you don’t buy this house/car/boat today, it will be gone, and you never get as good a deal!” Salespeople and marketers attempt to create urgency, which often leads to poor decisions: “Limited time deal!” “Order in the next five minutes and get a 20% discount!” When I’ve been pressured for an “immediate answer,” I simply say “If you want an answer immediately, then the answer is No.” You then typically find out that there was no real immediacy, and you can agree on a more reasonable timeframe. Don’t be pressured into making a decision before you feel comfortable with the decision and potential outcome.

A second key factor is the importance of a decision. If a choice has minimal impact, make it quickly based on your experience—don’t agonize over it. For example, you don’t need to go through an extensive decision-making process to pick up a pack of gum at the grocery story, but you might want to complete a thorough evaluation before you purchase a large screen television.

You can also remove the need to make many smaller decisions by standardizing your routine. You won’t have to “decide” to exercise every day if you have planned for it in your daily routine.

Assuming you have time to make a decision, and the decision has significance, then you should go through a decision-making process. The process should start with correctly framing the question, ensuring that you know what you are trying to decide. This often leads to probing that uncovers a more core issue. You may think the question is “Should I buy this specific house?” when a better question might be “What is the wisest way to provide a home for my family?” Failure to ask the right question can lead to seriously flawed decisions.

Next, review the information you have and what further information may be useful. You may need to do research, read reviews, ask experts or perform analytics. While more information is generally better, you should determine if the cost and time of acquiring the information justifies its value in the decision-making process. This is an important step, as some people just ask for more data that delays decision-making and increases cost when the additional information has little value. Prioritize your information needs and spend the time and money acquiring the information that has the highest benefit.

Decide who else may be impacted by your decision, and ensure they are informed and have an opportunity to provide input. Operating in isolation risks harming your relationships and can hamper implementing the decision by creating resistance.

If this is a business decision that your leader is interested in, meet with him or her to discuss it and get their point of view. You should also meet with your team or advisors to review the question and information to seek their input and brainstorm ideas, urging “constructive conflict” and open debate. List alternatives and pros/cons. Seek consensus, primarily listening and soliciting dialogue, without necessarily expressing your point of view. If consensus is not possible, after you believe all points had been made, make the decision and explain your rationale.

Try to find a way to say “yes” to new opportunities and push yourself and your team to figure how to do something, rather than figure out the reasons not to do it.

Determine the action plan around the decision, with timetable and accountabilities. Then, ensure the decision, rationale, action plan, timetable and accountabilities are documented and interested parties are informed.

If new information becomes available, be willing to revisit your decision to ensure it is still correct and modify your plans accordingly.

Although taking all these steps will not guarantee a perfect outcome, you will have increased the probability of success. Life is a series of decisions, and, by raising the odds, you improve the likelihood of having a great, surpassing life.

Action Points

• Make sure you have a sound decision-making process—don’t decide important issues on a whim.

• If a decision is urgent or not very significant, go with your experience, not an extensive process.

• Don’t fall prey to an artificial deadline. You can usually negotiate the time you need to make a good decision.

• Make sure you are asking the right question before seeking the solution.

• Get input from your advisors and team, and especially those who will be impacted by your decision.

• Have a good debate, then decide and capture your decision on paper.

• Revisit your decision if you get new, substantial information.

Payoff

Sound decisions, more effective plans, stronger buy-in, easier implementation.