Enable Decision Making

Decision-making is an important aspect of daily personal and business life.  Decisions are made all the time, from deciding to buy a coffee in the morning rather than have the free office coffee to deciding to watch that episode of “House” rather than sleep at midnight.  However, so many times, decisions are delayed and not made.  Regretfully, delays in decision-making usually come at a cost.

The cost of delays in decision-making

A lack of a decision almost always results in a cost to the organization.  Most common impacts are:

  • wasted effort of team working on incorrect priorities
  • unfocused activity that could have been avoided if the decision had been made in the first place
  • lack of team motivation due to wasted time and effort
  • delays in projects due to wasted time and effort
  • delays in product quality

It’s clear that all of these impact items have an associated cost, whether it’s monetary or not.  What’s more concerning, however, is that if impact items become habitual, they could result more serious organizational problems.

How do we avoid decision-making delays

Before we can avoid delays, we must first understand why they are done in the first place.

Why do we delay

Whether it’s in your personal life or business life, a delay of decision is usually cause by one or more of the following:

  • Lack of authority to make decision
  • Fear of incorrect decision / repercussions
  • Lack of confidence in decision
  • Lack of sufficient information

Enabling Decision Making

So what can you do in your organization to ensure that stakeholders are in a position to make decisions?  Basically you need to address the causes listed above.  An organization can take steps to alleviate the first two.  The final two reasons can only be handled by the decision maker themselves, although experience and training will provide them with some help.

Here are some steps that your organization can take to enable your decision makers.

1. Defining Clear Authority
It’s very important to define roles, responsibilities and authority within a project.  This needs to be done at the beginning of the project and approved by the project sponsor(s) and leader(s).  This is a key ingredient for enabling effective decision making.  Without this, stakeholders are not clear on who needs to make the decision resulting in delays.

2. Framework for decision making
It’s important to put together a framework that enables your key players to make decisions.  In addition to authority definition, this framework needs to define review processes and provide a venue for decision discussions with senior management.  More importantly, it’s needs to provide a venue for lack-of-decisions as well.  If decisions are not being made, the person responsible, typically the Project Manager, needs to have a mechanism for escalation that is clearly defined.  This escalation path not only needs to be possible, but it also should be mandated to alleviate awkwardness and friction between team members once it’s been enacted.

3. Culture Change
Two types of culture change need to happen.  First and foremost, from the top down, there needs to be a decision making culture in your organization.  Executives, Directors and Managers all need to push for decisions to be made.  However, before you can  do that, make sure you follow the preceding suggestions as well.

Second, a culture of experimentation needs to be fostered.  I’ve been in too many organizations where wrong decisions resulted in career path punishment for the decision-maker.  This type of culture results in avoidance of decision making and as a result failed projects and products.  Failed decisions need to be studied and understood but not punished.  This is critical as it is the most common reason why decisions are avoided.

4. Mentoring and Training
As in many aspects of business and personal life, mentoring and training go a long way in enabling an inexperienced person to learn.  This should be the case for future decision makers.  There are many approaches to mentoring and training and I will leave those for a future blog.  But the idea is to ensure that you’re providing the necessary support for your decision makers to increase their confidence and educate them on to make informed decision making.

Follow these steps fully, and combined them with an effort to foster truth in your organization, and you’ll notice markedly improved decision making in your organization.

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