Four decision making mistakes to avoid

Being able to make good decisions, at all levels of your organization, is vital to your company’s success.

Decision making skill, one of the top ten characteristics of great leaders, is more difficult than many people realize.

Consider this thought:

“Some problems are so complex that you have to be…well-informed just to be undecided about them.”

Laurence J. Peter

Great decisions can have deep, lasting and positive effects on many people.

Think about the far-reaching impact of these three decisions:

  • Columbus’ decision to seek the New World
  • John F. Kennedy’s decision that the US would land a man on the moon, and do so before the decade was out
  • Rosa Parks’ decision not to give up her seat on the bus one day in Montgomery, Alabama

Poor decision making is equally powerful, but in undesirable ways. Bad decisions can have devastating effects on people, organizations, and even entire countries.

Here’s just one example (and there are many):

Think about the impact on US and world financial markets of a few false assumptions about market risk and how to best manage it in 2008 (and in the years leading up to it). In addition, what was deemed adequate oversight of financial institutions turned out not to be.

It all added up to very big, very bad, very sudden surprises for many people and institutions, with long-term repercussions.

What are some of the primary problems with decision making?

Here are just a few:

1. Being unable to decide without a lot of information.

And then, being unable to swim one’s way through the sea of data, information and opinions to reach a valid, effective and timely decision.

2. Being decisive — but too much so.

Decision-makers may reach conclusions quickly, based on too little information, or inaccurate, deceptive, or untimely information.

3. Simplifying information so much that it’s stripped of significance.

Data and information may be overly simplified — or it may be unwieldy.

Either way, it may be difficult to synthesize and understand for deeper meaning, the ability to draw meaningful conclusions, and to make good, sustainable decisions.

4. Disowning one’s decisions.

This can occur if a leader fears the pushback that naturally happens at some point in almost every change or transition process.

We’ve touched on significant ways that decisions can go wrong.

How can decision making go right?

Great leaders ensure that they have reliable, accurate, timely information for the decisions they must make.

And they make sure that their decision making process is effective and continually improved, as needed.

These are some of the main characteristics of good decisions:

  • Timely
  • Well-informed
  • Take into account the needs and desires of the people most affected by the decision and its outcomes
  • Match the criteria for making that decision

Decision making comes easily to some people, but for others, it is a continuing challenge.

Decision making skills can be learned and improved, with focus and practice. Such skills are absolutely, positively essential for leadership excellence.