6 proven ways to make quick decisions
How do you get better at making quick decisions? What do you do when faced with urgent issues? How should you handle decisions in a crisis?
Practice your decision making
There is only one answer to this, and it’s that you need to practice your decision-making so that when the going gets tough, you are armed with reliable quick ways of making great decisions which you’ve tried before. There’s no way you’re going to try a new and effortful technique in a moment of crisis.
Research shows that there is good and bad types of practice for skills like decision-making. Essentially, the best form is deliberate practice where you consciously focus on practising, and make sure that you get rapid feedback on whether your skills are improving.
Here are some of the actual techniques and tools I recommend practising for all decisions, which are then very handy when faced with a quick decision.
6 techniques which make for quick decisions
- Know your values – whether corporate or personal values. If you are clear on what your values are, decisions are easier and quicker, there are less moral conundrums. This one is worth investing time in this as it consistently reduces decision making time later. As I say to people, if your corporate values don’t get used in decision-making, then what are they for?
- Ask someone. When faced with a problem, ask someone who’s faced the situation before. There are few problems you’ll face that no-one has ever seen before.
- Write it all on one page. Our brains can’t handle that much information simultaneously, we tend to focus on one or two things at a time. With complex decisions, it makes it impossible to see all the factors in your mind. Map them all out on a page, give the problem a structure. Write down the key criteria and how the options compare. This reduces time take to make decisions.
- How would you advise a friend. When we’re in a difficult situation, we often can’t see the wood for the trees. Yet, when a friend asks us for advice, it’s often really easy to see what they should do. So, you can apply this situation to yourself, by going outside the situation to see what you would advise a friend who was in the same situation.
- Conduct a pre-mortem. If you’re worried about risks, but under time pressure use the pre-mortem. Imagine you are 6 months or 12 months in the future and you’re decision has backfired, the project has died. Now, work out why the project died. Write down all the reasons you can think of, ideally get a group to do this and you will surface on average 30% more risks than just looking at a plan and discussing it.
- Rule out your current option (s). It’s often difficult to think beyond your first option. In fact in 71% of business decisions, there is only one option on the table, which is a known factor in bad decision-making. One way of getting round this it to explicitly imagine your current options are ruled out, forcing you to generate new ones.
If you deliberately practice the above techniques, your decision making will improve substantially, and when you have to make snap decisions, you can call on one or two of these techniques which take minutes to do.
When to be fast and when to be slow
Leaders need to be able to operate at 2 speeds, and it turns out that many leaders skew towards being at one extreme, either “faffing around” as one client called it, or “running off ahead of everyone” as another client observed. If you have the choice of speed, I advise the following criteria.
If the decision is clearly yours to make, and does not have a lot of people who will be affected, and has no linked decisions (domino effects), then go quick.
If the decision requires consultation, affects many people, and has a number of linked decisions (dominoes) then you probably need to slow down so you don’t end up having to unwind your decision later. Also, where you need other people to carry out your plan, aligning them in the decision process can be hugely beneficial.
Deciding in the correct way, and at the appropriate speed makes execution happen faster and more cleanly. A few extra hours up front can actually define whether the project succeeds or fails, or can take weeks off the timeline.
Posted by Rob Pyne
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