When coaching business leaders, one of the most common challenges they face is the dilemma of how to make the right decision in a timely fashion. Most often business owners and managers default to the side of trying to make the most accurate and correct decision. As a result, they take careful, deliberate steps for most or all important decisions which of course means the decision will take much longer before it is rendered.
How We Got Here
In the aftermath of the economic collapse of 2008, managers began to shift decision making towards the more careful, controlled approach. No one wants to lose their job or business credibility because they made a bad decision. Moreover, with all of today’s distractions and information overload, more and more leaders find themselves bogged down with decisions, many of which are buried in the 300 plus emails they received daily. And finally, we have been long conditioned to believe that the more time one takes to consider a decision, the more accurate the decision will be, thereby avoiding costly mistakes.
Intuitive Decision Making vs. Rational
Studies show that Americans make about 35,000 decisions per day. Obviously most of these are routine, almost effortless actions that we do without consciously thinking. But many business decisions fall outside of this category. The key is to recognize decision situations and develop the ability to address them using a more intuitive approach. For those complex decisions that require more thought, it’s good to think through and weigh the various options you might have and seek out input from others. But for the less complex decisions, if the decision making process takes too long, you could limit your effectiveness and the efficiency needed to achieve your business goals.
The Value of Efficiency
While many leaders know the value of making the right decision on big matters, many fall short of understanding the value of efficient decisions. In business, everything is deadline driven, (wouldn’t it be great if we could achieve our goals, sort of whenever we achieved them)? Since our goals have deadlines, quicker, yet accurate decisions are key to moving the ball forward more consistently. Therefore, the first step towards decision making efficiency is becoming aware of its value and importance.
How to Make Better Decisions
For the most part, leaders don’t have many options available that help develop decision making skills. We often dismiss decision making as a natural talent or intangible that comes only through decades of experience. But the reality is you can in fact enhance and accelerate thinking skills in a meaningful way. Research Scientist Gary C. Klein, Ph.D., has been instrumental in leading research in natural settings (non-practice environments such as business). One of the concepts adopted by several industries including business, is Dr. Klein’s Recognition-Primed Decision-Making (RPD) model. RPD helps people make rapid decisions in naturalistic settings. It incorporates both the intuitive and analytical components. The beauty of RPD is that you can practice while you work by noticing your decisions with more intention.
The RPD Decision Making Process
The first stage of RPD, involves matching patterns from situations to those already experienced. The second stage, focuses on interpreting information. Finally, the third stage relates to evaluating the merits of a potential decision and acting on it.
It may seem strange to think of these mental processes, in steps, but doing so is key to making better and timelier decisions. And the better news is that you can apply RPD in your routine work using this three step approach… 1) As you encounter daily business decisions, think of similar decisions you have experienced either directly or through others. If there is a “match,” you probably have enough information to make the right decision. 2) If you need more information, you can mentally test a solution that might be similar and quickly select one that has a good chance of working. 3) For complex decisions where the situation is less familiar, it's wise to seek more information and use a more deliberate decision making process. Finally, as you apply RPD to your work, make mental notes of the decisions that work well, and those that don’t. This mental cataloguing becomes useful knowledge in your experience bank by which you can continue to draw from for future decisions.
There you have it…a proven method of success for making accurate decisions without sacrificing efficiency. Effective decision making represents one of the most important levers you can use as a leader. By approaching decisions with intentionality, you accelerate the journey towards making excellent decisions.
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Sedric Hill is the president and co-founder of Sales Development & Performance LLC, a training and consulting firm serving sales professionals and organizations by providing Expert-Based Training (XBT) and customized performance advisory services. Connect with Sedric