Monday, July 23, 2007

Why Can’t We Get A Decision Around Here?

Have you ever wondered that silently, or even aloud? You are not alone. Decision making is at the heart of business, and most often at the heart of the state of a business. Organizations that make important decisions well and execute them well excel. One’s that don’t, don’t. It really is that simple. Why then, do so many have trouble making decisions, or spend their time on less important decisions? A few thoughts, if I may.

Focus on first things first. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But many don’t. In the hustle of the day we all too often forget about priorities. Critical strategic and operational decisions should be at the top of your To Do list every single day, and time should be specifically allocated to think, process, and make those decisions.

Accountability trumps ambiguity. Holding people responsible for their role in decision making keeps the decision at the top of their To Do list. Don’t let it, or the phone, grow moss. If someone is late with a deliverable that contributes to an important decision, remind them quickly.

Analyze, then act decisively. Yes, you must analyze, but don’t overdo it. Gen. Colin Powell (ret.) gave a briefing on leadership that has become a cult classic, I am sure many of you have seen it. Look again at slide 16…

“Part I: "Use the formula P=40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired.”

"Part II: "Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut."

"Don't take action if you have only enough information to give you less than a 40 percent chance of being right, but don't wait until you have enough facts to be100 percent sure, because by then it is almost always too late. Today, excessive delays in the name of information-gathering breeds "analysis paralysis." Procrastination in the name of reducing risk actually increases risk.”

I once saw Gen. Powell present this brief and on this point he made a remarkable statement. Let me paraphrase it here: At 40% of available information you have enough to make non-critical decisions. As the importance of the decision escalates so too should the percentage of available information. When you have 70% of the available information you have enough to make the most important and critical decisions of your life.

Speed and agility go hand in hand. Making good decisions is just the first step. Good organizations do not stop there. They execute with laser-like focus and retain the ability to adapt quickly to changing environments. Accountability is the key to the former and good intelligence and role definition is the key to the latter.

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