Decision making to move business change forward
Phil Rose, Founder-Director, Ignium
Decisions, decisions, decisions. It never seems to end and having to make them is just part of adult life. Whether it’s for work in terms of management, leadership, running a business or, indeed, running home life and personal admin, every single day decisions need to be made. And as Phil Rose, Founder-Director at Ignium explains, everything we choose to do involves a decision. We choose why we’re doing something, what we’re doing, when we’re going to do it and, eventually, how to do it.
Sounds simple but when it comes to work that’s not always the case. Business leaders often face dozens of decisions every day and as companies grow those decisions become more frequent, more complicated, and can often have serious ramifications if not carefully considered. Sometimes there’s so much pressure that it’s not about making the right decision, but simply making sure a decision is made!
The most successful entrepreneurs and business leaders in the world will tell you they have made many wrong decisions throughout their careers, but those failures tend to lead to valuable learning experiences. So, how do you go about making decisions for your organisation and how do you involve others in the business to help make sure you get it right?
Business owners, executives and managers must master the ability to make good decisions quickly in order to keep the business moving forward. The best leaders, however, know when they need input from their team and surround themselves with trusted advisors and subject matter experts. Having access to a constant flow of information from those you trust will help you to make more informed decisions.
However, many of today’s leaders are also suffering from inattention blindness. The inability to be present in the moment and see the wood for the trees. Deluged by data, leaders should have more information than ever to enable better decision making, yet ironically the opposite is happening, and the situation is only likely to get worse.
Rather than falling prey to the pressures of time around them business leaders have a choice. Everything in life is about choice. When people look at the decisions they’re being asked to make they need to be clear on ‘why’ they want to do it. This sets the context in the first place. Without context all we have is content or noise. When we know why we are doing something we can communicate that ‘why’ to everyone else who is affected by that decision. It also means that we can then define the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ more easily given the context of why we’re making that decision in the first place.
A simple example of placing a decision into context is if I asked a group of people to give me a list of fruits, they would no doubt each be able to come up with many fruit examples – apples, pears, bananas, kiwis, oranges, plums, cherries etc. Now, suppose I asked that group to choose the best one. Yes, simply the best in their view. How long would it take them to decide among themselves which of all the fruits listed was the best? The answer? They probably wouldn’t reach a consensus. It would be one voice against another, one preference versus someone else’s. Ultimately the one who speaks loudest, or with most authority, will win. Now, is that the ‘right’ way to choose? No, because it’s just based on opinions. How often are important decisions made like this in our personal lives and in business?
A more fruitful, excuse the pun, way is to set a context first. The context is the ‘why’. The context helps the group come to a clear decision quickly. So, for example, if I asked the same group of people to name a fruit best known to give me energy, the fruit they’d most probably choose is a banana. The group can easily reach that conclusion because the question was put into context. It’s not about shouting loudly or using excessive authority but about being absolutely clear on the context in which we make the decision.
As 2020 gets underway organisations face many tough decisions. The economy is building in strength; Brexit will finally come to fruition and employee engagement is becoming even more critical. In these times, business leaders need a framework to help them make clear decisions and many will find that resistance is created through a lack of clarity. That resistance will come at many levels across the company, especially when people aren’t fully clear ‘why’ a decision is being made. Having a framework that guides decision making will bring clarity and will ultimately lead to a more successful outcome.
The ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of that choice can then be made relatively easily once the ‘why’ is understood. People are more likely to buy into the changes that need to be made if they understand the context and when that happens their engagement levels will increase too. Employees will remain focused on the change in hand, customers, partners and suppliers will understand, and you never know, (in terms of Brexit) even the country might eventually align behind the decision!
So, next time you need to make a decision about something ask yourself the question “What’s the context for this choice?” and then look at the options. One will appear to be the clear winner and then you can lead the discussion from a contextual point of view and not one where you are ‘stuck’ in the content of the moment.