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Have you heard it said that “if you do not make a decision, you have still made one”? One of the keys to great leadership is the ability to make clear decisions in a timely manner. Not to do so causes confusion in the ranks and leaves forward motion to flounder. It’s time to take action!

One of your key responsibilities as a leader is to make decisions. Decisions come down to making a judgment. It is a choice between different alternatives. One of the most critical issues in the business world is the lack of quick and effective decision-making and it can paralyze an organization.

Assuming that this is true, why is it that more leaders procrastinate and do not make timely and effective decisions? A key aspect of this conundrum is a lack of courage. Remember the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz and how he lived in fear and was frequently paralyzed by a lack of decision-making? Courage is an issue that many leaders deal with every day, and developing courage and confidence contributes to a higher level of decision-making ability and competence.

The principles of decision-making are clear cut and understanding these basic tenets will dramatically reduce fear and hesitation when making decisions. We originally discussed these steps in this blog and I wanted to expand on them here:

  1. Recognize that a problem exists.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But sometimes we stick our heads in the sand and hope that the problem or issue will go away and, when it does not, often only gets worse.
  2. Define the problem.  In continuous quality improvement, this is called getting to the root cause. Skimming away biases, unfounded opinions, faulty information, etc., what is the real problem? And it needs to be stated so that there is no confusion. This is a critical step to address before you try to develop a solution.
  3. Identify possible causes of the problem. Don’t be afraid to use the five “W’s” of Who, What, When, Where and Why. This will help you to discover possible causes and determine the real problem. Remember not to focus on blame, because doing so can cause others to be unwilling to help if they think they may “get in trouble.”
  4. Seek a series of alternative solutions. Identifying a variety of possible solutions will help you be more open-minded in the different ways that a problem can be solved. Don’t be limited by conventional thinking or past failures or successes. Take the time to think “outside the box” to identify the options.
  5. Choose the solution you think is best. It’s time for a decision! Which alternative do you think will work best? The effectiveness of your decision will increase relative to your open-mindedness to other ideas. Use appropriate methods and tools to evaluate the options and then make a decision.
  6. Share your decision. It’s time for action. Communicate the decision and why you made it. Thank others for their input and their support now that the decision is made. Ensure that all key parties are vested in seeing the decision through.
  7. Inspect the decision. The whole idea around making decisions is performing the right actions and getting to the right results. Be sure to step back and measure the success of the decision and don’t be territorial and unwilling to adjust the decision if it isn’t working fully. To the extent necessary, think through a contingency (Plan B) ahead of time.

I love this quote: Decision is a sharp knife that cuts clean and straight; indecision is a dull one that hacks and tears and leaves ragged edges behind. Decision-making doesn’t have to be a difficult hill to climb. Break the process into its parts and move through them following the steps above. You will be surprised at the results and feel much more confident about the decisions you need to make as a leader.