How to avoid poor Decision-Making!

Decision-making is a tricky issue and one that affects us all!  We have to make many decisions in our daily life, whether they are small or large, life-changing or not, or involve much or little actual, conscious thought-processing, they all involve us making a decision.  However, how can we make sure we are good decision-makers?

An article on Harvard Business Review Blog by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman discussed exactly this topic.  Their research looked into the ‘root cause of poor decision-making’ by reviewing 360-feedback of more than 50,000 leaders and using this to compare the behaviour of those who were perceived as poor decision-makers and those who were good at making decisions.  Through this they were able to capture the nine factors which were the most common in leading to poor decision-making…

  1. This involves failing to make the effort and take the time to check facts and instead just making assumptions without finding out the ‘whole story’.  In order to effectively solve problems the first time around, you need to know the finer details and background information.
  2. Not appreciating obstacles. You need to consider what could go wrong and what problems could potentially arise.  This will make sure you can make the most effective and educated decision; taking into account the negatives as well as the positives and making sure the positives still outweigh the negatives of your decided course of action.  Being aware of potential issues will ensure you are fully prepared if something bad does happen, rather than thrown into a state of turmoil.
  3. It is important to understand all the facts and background information, but taking too long to analyse and reflect on a decision results in delays and opportunities could be missed.  As Zenger and Folkman comment; “It takes courage to look at the data, consider the consequences responsibly, and then move forward”, this is why strong decision-making is such a valuable skill to have.
  4. Scared of change! Being stuck in routine and doing things in the same way simply because ‘we have always done it like this’ will restrict you from moving forward.  Don’t base the future on past assumptions and look for alternative, more effective ways forward!
  5. Lack of strategic alignment. Decisions need to be linked back through to a strategy to add context and make the best decisions come out on top.
  6. Relying on one person’s opinion too much could delay the process, especially if this one person is waiting for someone else’s input too!
  7. On the flip side, not asking opinions or input from your peers is just as harmful.  Your team can provide specific expertise, viewpoints or a new way of looking at decision – make use of this.  Zenger and Folkman have found that there are usually two reasons why people do not choose to ask for others’ perspectives; they lack networking skills to access the right information or a disinclination to share the credit for the decision.
  8. Lack of technical knowledge. It is not enough to just rely on the technical expertise and knowledge of others’, because this makes it harder to integrate and make sense of this information alongside your own thoughts and decisions.
  9. Failure to communicate a decision. Communication of decisions in any organisation and team is vital and a well thought through decision can become a failure if not communicated effectively within the team.  Be sure to cover the what, when, where, how and the rational and implications of the decision.

Understanding and appreciating these nine habits which lead to poor decision-making will stand you in the best stead for making effective and well-informed decisions.  All these points are easy habits to fall into or mistakes to make, so do not feel disheartened if you have pinpointed that you have succumbed to one or a few of them.  Also increase the overall effectiveness of your team by discussing these ‘factors of poor decision-making’ with them and make sure you all have a better chance of success!  When you are next faced with a decision at work, why not refer back to this list and make sure you are not falling into any of these traps!

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