8 Steps to Making Decisions Decisively

1. Have a clear decision-making process. If you don’t have a good critical thinking process in place, you may be reluctant to make important decisions. You don’t have confidence in your methodology so you look for more data, ask more people, and do more analysis. A good thinking process will help you know when you have enough information to move forward.  To make a good decision you need to gather information to see what is happening, generate some ideas about possible solutions, evaluate what solution best solves your problem, and make sure all of the key stakeholders agree with your choice. Once you have followed these steps, you can feel confident that you have made a good decision and make it.

2. Embrace ambiguity. Many people dislike ambiguity and feel that they cannot make a decision until they know exactly what is going on (i.e., have all the facts). In business, however, you rarely have absolute certainty: customer demands change, a new competitor enters the market, or there are regulatory shifts. Good decision makers learn to gather the available information, make predictions about how things might change, analyze the data, and get feedback from others to engage them in the process. Even in an uncertain environment, you can be confident that you have made the best decision given the information available at the time. Decide, then move on: there are new decisions to be made.

3. Speed up by slowing down. We tweet, we text, we answer emails until our thumbs seize. We digest more information in a week than people used to absorb in a year. We jump on and off planes and Skype and go to endless meetings. And every quarter, we are judged on our performance. So we must be making decisions quickly too, right? Wrong. A frenzy of activity will often make us less able to make a decision. Decisions require some focused thinking and discussion and that rarely happens while tweeting or jumping on and off planes. Spending a few hours engaged in a decision-making process can be one of the most effective uses of your time.

4. Accept risk. The reality is, making decisions involves taking risks and we are so averse to loss that the potential to make a mistake can cause us to freeze. But doing nothing is almost always worse than doing something: as T.S. Eliot wisely noted, the world ends not with a bang but a whimper. A company that wants to move forward knows that mistakes will be made and will make its people feel secure in spite of that. They put safeguards in place to predict and mitigate risk but are aware that occasionally mistakes happen and the wrong decisions will be made.

Jen Lawrence
Jen Lawrence, is a principal at Process Design Consultants. She has written and spoken on corporate culture, critical thinking, and strategic planning, and been interviewed by media outlets including The Toronto Star, Report on Business TV, National Post, and Toronto Life.