A Framework for Effective Organizational Decision-Making

By: Lou Quinto, Leadership Speaker & Executive Coach, Executive Development Associates, Inc.

This past weekend I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In one of the last scenes of the movie, the evil archeologist who is pursuing Indiana Jones finds himself confronted with a decision – “Which chalice is the Holy Grail?” Assuming that Jesus would only drink from a rich, spectacular looking chalice at the Last Supper, the archeologist chooses an ornate, gold, Vatican-quality chalice from the many displayed in front of him. When he drinks from the chalice he then turns to dust before our eyes. At which point the centuries old Templar Knight who has been guarding the Holy Grail says, “He chose… poorly!” (Thank you, Captain Obvious!)

While you won’t turn to dust if you make a poor decision, success in business – and in life – is predicated on the quality of decisions you make. Each day you are faced with many opportunities to make decisions, both large or small. In fact, making good decisions is part of being a great leader. While most of us will occasionally make bad decisions, there are things you can do to help improve your decision-making skills so you can better analyze each situation and choose the best option to move you, and your company, forward.

Avoid Procrastination
It’s tempting to procrastinate on making a decision on account of fear. Fear of making the wrong decision. Fear of what other people might think. Fear of losing money. This is particularly true when the decision is a difficult one, or it involves significant risk to you or your company. Emotionally, it can seem easier to put off the decision. However, procrastinating increases the chance you will make the wrong decision. This is because putting it off for later reduces the time you must review all the relevant information, identify different alternatives, and solicit advice from trusted advisors.

Seek Feedback & Input
Being in a leadership role does not mean you must make all decisions by yourself, and if you only rely on your own knowledge, you could miss critical information that would help you make a better decision. Identify a small group of trusted advisors, either within or outside of your company, who can help you objectively review the situation, identify alternatives and potential solutions, and choose the best one. Cyrus the Great said “Diversity in counsel, unity in command” and that certainly applies to decision-making.

Use a Process
Processes are important to ensure that every step is covered. When you begin without a process outlined, you can easily miss steps along the way that could lead to a less-than-optimal decision or outcome. In addition, a good process gives you the ability to identify the most important criteria for your decision and weight those criteria according to their value, which will help you objectively evaluate the alternatives.

Implement the Decision Well
Even the best decisions, without a good plan for how to implement them, will fail. When you identify the direction you intend to take, stop and outline how the decision will be carried out. Who are the key individuals that must be involved? What is your timeline? Most importantly, identify things that could go wrong with the implementation and how you will prevent or minimize the impact. Most people do not distinguish between a good decision and good implementation. It’s important to have both.

Whether it is in business or life in general, success is often a result of making good decisions. Focusing on improving the process can help make each decision, regardless of how big or small, a bit easier.

There is a correlation between speed and accuracy (correctness) of a decision. While there are exceptions to the rule, experience has taught us that decisions made quickly don’t work out as well as decisions made after taking our time to evaluate options thoroughly. If you have an inefficient or non-existent process to ensure the accuracy of a decision, the speed of the decision will suffer.

Allowance for Risk
Likewise, there is a correlation between the allowance for risk and our desire for accuracy in a decision. The less risk that we perceive is allowed, the more time we will take to ensure our decision is as accurate as possible and the speed of the decision diminishes. The organizational issues that drive an individual’s perception of allowable risk will ultimately affect the speed of the decisions.

Specifically, a risk-averse culture can oftentimes result in very slow decisions in critical areas. To address the speed of decisions in your organization, you must first understand whether the allowance of risk or the efficiency of the process is driving the slow decisions because the treatment is very different.

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt

About the Author:

Lou Quinto has over 20 years of experience in employee development, management training, executive coaching, and consulting with expertise in teaching managerial skills, critical thinking skills, professional presentation skills, and motivational speaking. His style of training and consulting is described by clients as engaging, motivating, and productive, making him a popular choice for conducting seminars, management retreats, and executive coaching sessions. Lou is a graduate of Purdue University and resides in Indianapolis, IN.