Nothing derails performance more than slow or poor decision making. That’s a big problem: many leaders’ decision-making skills closely resemble those of a squirrel crossing the street.
I’ve had the good fortune of working and coaching in some extremely high-performing organizations, and one thing the leaders in those environments all have in common is the ability to make quality decisions quickly.
Here’s how they do it.
1. They value quick, quality decision making. Successful organizations see decision making as integral to high performance. Individuals who facilitate quick, quality decisions are highly valued, better paid, and more likely to be promoted––often because their teams are out-performing everyone else.
2. The decision they make first is who’s making the decision. As one client of mine puts it, “Whose got the A?”: in other words, who in this conversation does the organization hold accountable for the decision about to be made? Before any discussion that could lead to a decision begins, the accountable decision maker is determined.
3. They don’t allow subject matter experts (SMEs) to make decisions. SMEs provide invaluable input to the decision maker, but just because someone knows the most or is the most senior or experienced person participating in the discussion does not mean they trump the person with the “A.”
4. They analyze and discuss no more than what’s needed to make a quality decision. In successful organizations, people are hypersensitive to “analysis paralysis.” They do not hesitate to interrupt a discussion and declare, “I think we’ve discussed this enough,” then turn to the decision maker and ask, “Do you have what you need to make a decision?”
5. They schedule and hold very short meetings. In these companies, a 15-minute meeting is the norm. Thirty minutes is considered a long meeting. And no one would dare schedule a meeting longer than 45 minutes without good reason.
6. They avoid consensus decisions. Consensus decision making is appropriate for deciding the theme for the company picnic, but it is a surefire way to guarantee slow, low-quality business and operating decisions. As a associate of mine likes to say, “None of us is a dumb as all of us.” Everyone is encouraged to provide input to be considered, but only the person with the “A” makes the decision.
7. They support the decision maker’s decision. Second guessing is unheard of in these successful organizations because their people have learned to have high confidence in their decision-making approach. One exception that could prompt revisiting: new information comes forth that raises serious doubts about the decision. If this happens, the new information is presented to the decision maker so she can revise the decision as deemed appropriate.
8. They understand that not deciding is deciding to fail. Successful companies view a discussion or meeting that does not end with a decision or action as a failure. Any person who develops the reputation of holding decision-free meetings soon finds that they are sparsely attended.
If you and your organization can start making quality decisions faster, morale will soar. People will feel liberated and respected. Then, performing at a higher level than you once thought was possible, you’ll look up and see that real progress is being made on a mission you all truly believe in.