Decision making is the navigation system of choice for determined people and organizations. The word ‘ambitious’ is chosen intentionally.
Leaders often must wait to see the results of their decisions. Should they judge all decisions by outcomes? No.
Leaders need not wait for the results to measure their decision-making effectiveness. Instead, they ought to examine the process that they employ to make critical choices. By appraising the decision process in real time, as they make choices, they raise the odds of making sound choices.
Think about a decision that you and your team are trying to make. Do you considered multiple alternatives? Do you surface and test your assumptions carefully? Do rebellious views appear during your deliberations, and do you give those ideas proper consideration? Are you fostering high commitment and shared understanding among those who will implement the decision? A quality decision-making process tends to enhance the probability of achieving positive outcomes.
Good process does not simply mean sound analytics (the best use of the latest strategy framework or quantitative financial evaluation technique). Good process entails the astute management of the social, political, and emotional aspects of decision-making as well. An effective leader does not just produce positive results by pondering in on the content of critical choices in a wise and thoughtful manner; he also shapes and influences how those decisions are made.
A decision made before a problem has been solved (an ‘early decision’) is likely to fail. Leaders can augment the quality of their decisions in two ways:
- Constructive Conflict. Leaders must cultivate constructive conflict to enhance critical and divergent thinking, while building consensus so as to facilitate the opportune implementation of their choices. Managing the tension between conflict and consensus is a challenge. Consensus is not unanimity, like-mindedness, or pervasive agreement. Instead, it’s a high commitment and shared understanding among the people involved in the decision. Leaders can build buy-in and collective comprehension without appeasing everyone on their teams or making decisions by majority vote.
- Decide How to Decide. Assess who should be involved in the deliberations, what interpersonal climate you want to foster, how individuals should communicate with one another, and the extent and type of control that the leader will exert. Leaders have several levers that they can employ to design more effective decision-making processes and to shape how they unfold over time. Leaders should be directive when it comes to influencing the way in which decisions are made in their groups without trying to dominate or micromanage the discussion and evaluation. Deciding how to decide enhances the probability of managing conflict and consensus effectively.
Leaders must strive for a balance of assertiveness and restraint. The question is not whether they should be vigorous and directive as they make strategic choices, but how they ought to wield their influence.
To make the most of the expertise and ideas that other members possess, leaders need to refrain from pronouncing their solution to a problem, before giving others a chance to offer their perspectives. They must acknowledge that they do not have all the answers, and that their initial insight may be incorrect. Their behavior, principally at the outset of a decision process, can encourage others to act deferentially. Even the best choices mean little if interdependent units won’t cooperate to execute the decision.
By exercising restraint, leaders recognize that their knowledge in a particular domain is often imprecise and incomplete. Undemonstrative leaders constantly search and explore for new knowledge, rather than seek the data and opinions that confirm their opinions.
Reflect on past choices and scrutinize how you make decisions. Experiment to enhance your odds of making sound choices, and solicit others who will devotedly execute your plans.
Decision planning can be significantly enhanced by using a team, and in companies and organizations there is no choice.