Oswald Letter

Follow these 5 tips for effective decision making

Taking decisions for the futureby Dan Oswald

Life is full of decisions. Think for a moment about all the decisions you face at work in just a single day. You make many choices every day that affect your business. Depending on your exact role, you make decisions about people, projects, strategy, and more. A lot of choices.

And make no mistake about it, each choice comes with consequences. There’s an old saying, “You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choice.” In my experience, those who understand and accept the consequences are ultimately the most successful.

So let’s touch on decision making for a moment. With so much riding on the decisions you make and with so many decisions to be made daily, how do you improve your chances of success? Here are a few ideas:

  1. It’s true that you make dozens of decisions at work every day. The first step in successful decision making is understanding that the importance of every decision is not equal. You need to know which decisions can be made quickly with little time spent on them and which require your full attention. By quickly dispatching the less significant choices, you’re free to spend a greater amount of time on those that really count. Prioritizing your decisions is the first step.
  2. You also need to know what information is necessary to make an informed decision. To make good decisions, you need a certain amount of data. Knowing what you need to make the best decision possible is key. It allows you to ask for the information directly to assist in your decision making. Good decisions are based on good information and, more important, the right information. Knowing what information is necessary to make a good choice is critical.
  3. Understand that the information you have to make a decision will never be complete. There will always be more data you would like to have to ensure you’re making the right call. No data set is perfect. With every decision is something that is unknown, and waiting for perfect information only leads to delay. You need data that is good enough and complete enough to combine with your experience and intuition to make the best possible decision. That’s as good as it gets.
  4. That brings me to my fourth point—decisions need to be timely. Wasting time on unimportant decisions, not knowing which information is necessary to make a good decision, or waiting for perfect data before making your choice all prevent you from making timely decisions. You let these things get in the way of making a decision, and you’ll end up making the right decision, but it will come too late. The opportunity will have passed or a competitor will have beaten you to it because you were unable to decide.
  5. Know that you’re not perfect. You’re going to make the wrong choices at times. The people who are most decisive are confident that even if they choose incorrectly, they can still succeed. Whether that means backtracking or making adjustments to the chosen course of action, they make decisions knowing that by being decisive, they’ve allowed themselves more time to change the path they are on when they encounter issues. You don’t need to be reckless to be decisive. Go with the information you have, and make a choice. You’ll know if you need to redirect.

Decisions, decisions. There are so many to make each day and so little time. Focusing on those that are most important and getting the right information to make informed decisions will help you be more decisive and make timely choices. And when you choose wrong, act quickly to fix it. No one makes the right decision every time—we’re all just looking to improve our odds of making the right choices.