During the ongoing pandemic, we’re seeing that the most successful companies are the ones that can adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Restaurants that have shifted to curbside pickup and delivery models and companies that have embraced gift cards are doing better than their counterparts that have remained stagnant. Better, faster decision-making is one of the hallmarks of good leadership—and nowadays, it’s making all the difference.
Managers began investigating how to make these better, faster decisions even before the coronavirus outbreak. Research has consistently shown that delays in decision-making are a major source of increased employee frustration and company costs. A Harvard Business School study found that for every hour a product team spends working, they will spend 48 minutes waiting on a crucial decision. If a company can cut that time in half, it can result in more than $370,000 worth of additional productive time each year for a 25-person team.
Slow decision-making plagues both small businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike. But while a larger business may have a lot more money to lose, it can mean the difference between success and bankruptcy for smaller businesses—especially given our current economic climate. So how can you navigate important decisions when facing a time crunch?
The good news is that there is no trade-off between good decisions and quick decisions. In fact, a survey by McKinsey found a strong correlation between quick and good decisions. The secret lies in your company culture, identifying objectives, and communicating effectively.
People make better decisions when they feel empowered and have a firsthand understanding of the work relating to the decision. Managers should delegate decision-making to those working closest to the situation and strive to cultivate a strong sense of accountability and responsibility to empower team members in the process.
Creating a culture of empowerment motivates employees to seek answers to questions themselves, rather than waiting for responses from others. This practice will not only help streamline communication but also speed up the decision-making process. McKinsey’s research found that when employees feel empowered to make decisions and simultaneously receive sufficient coaching from leaders, they were 3.2 times more likely to report company success in executing quality decisions quickly.
If you’re delegating decision-making to different groups, it’s imperative to share the bigger picture with everybody. This approach means ensuring everybody understands the ultimate objectives and goals—but also realizing which are most important if all objectives can’t be met. There’s no such thing as the perfect decision—often, we need to make difficult trade-offs between 2 or more crucial objectives. Understanding which objectives are likely to have the biggest impact will help speed up the process.
Once you’ve identified and ranked the most important objectives, you need to communicate them to everyone on your team. An organization can only be effective if everyone is onboard, and nobody can be onboard if they don’t know the latest information.
Encourage communication among your team members and employees so that everyone knows what everyone else is working on and how it relates to the overall objective. Employees can go directly to one another to share information and find solutions to issues when they know who is working on what. This sharing ensures everyone is on the same page and minimizes confusion that can result in delays.
To make an effective decision, you need to approach it from all angles. Encourage active debate among team members when it comes to evaluating a possible decision. Have someone play devil’s advocate to help you realize scenarios and outcomes you may not have previously considered. Don’t be afraid to bounce your ideas and concerns off of other people and ask for their opinions. We make better decisions when we receive lots of feedback.
Remember that increased diversity helps improve the quality of debates and decision-making. It’s important to consult with a wide range of perspectives when weighing a decision. Doing so will allow you to see potential pitfalls ahead of time. Discussion will also help you filter through information to identify what is important and how scenarios relate to overall objectives.
At some point, a decision needs to be made. Constantly reviewing information is only useful up until a certain point. And while it’s important to discuss ideas with others and consider all angles during the decision-making process, you have to be careful not to overdo it. Eventually, you’re going to have to take the initiative and implement the decision. It will require some amount of courage, which is what good leadership is all about. If you don’t, you risk inertia and indecisiveness, which is the worst decision of all.