It’s estimated that 50 % of business decisions fail!
That’s a shocking statistic, isn’t it? So how do you make sure the decisions you make for your business, or even worse, the business itself, doesn’t end up in the crapper?
The answer is actually very simple:
Apply a standardized process to each decision to make sure that the decision is made based on facts, reason and logic, while leaving personal biases, emotions, and office politics out of the equation.
Regardless of the process you choose, and there are many, just by applying this short list of 7 qualities to your decision process, your decision outcomes and success rate will dramatically improve!
This blog series will discuss the 7 main qualities, or characteristics of a good decision, and discuss decision “traps” that can short-circuit the process. There are of course, many more factors involved in making decisions, but this list represents the consensus “core” qualities that matter most.
Our series begins with the most important quality…
Quality #1. Start with an Open-Mind.
If you want your decision to result in a successful outcome, you must begin the process with this basic realization: pre-judged, pre-conceived, and biased decisions, especially when combined with limited options, and made in a “command and control” rather than “consensus” type environment, most often end up in failure.
You must start with an Open Mind. Period. End of story.
Why? Because your chances of finding the right solution to your problem or even finding the right problem, is extremely low when you start the decision process with your mind already made up, or even partially made up. If you do, then it’s not a decision. It’s a foregone conclusion. Why go through the motions of making the decision if this is the case?
What is an open mind, you might ask? While there are many definitions, I would define it as; “A mindset that doesn’t bring pre-conceived ideas or opinions into the decision-making process. It also means being open to all ideas presented, without prejudice, favoritism, office politics, or biases of any kind.”
That sounds hard to do, doesn’t it? It is! We are all biased to one degree or another, that’s a given. But intellectually, we are capable of suppressing most of these biases, IF, we value a good decision outcome more than our personally held beliefs. Being open-minded is hard, but the result is worth the effort! In my book, if you can’t overcome this obstacle, you might as well give up any pretense of making the best decision possible, take the quick, easy way out by dictating your decision, and then be willing to live with the consequences when it fails. However, if you aren’t intellectually lazy, and your primary goal is a good decision outcome, then by listening and evaluating ideas and facts that may be the opposite of, or even antithetical to your way of thinking, you’re already far ahead of others that can’t bring themselves to being intellectually honest enough with themselves to make a wise decision.
So you see, by first simply adopting a formal decision method, and secondly, by starting the process with an open mind, you will be far more likely to reach your business goals than your competitors who aren’t willing to put the work into establishing a winning decision-making process like yours. Open-mindedness as a competitive advantage – who would have thought!
Decision Traps: “Hey! I’m open-minded!” Even if we think we are open-minded and unbiased, there are numerous “traps” that can trip up a good decision. One trap is starting the process with a statement about the outcome you want. This trap works like this-
The CEO says, “Our sales are down and from what I’ve heard customers say, we are too disorganized and can’t respond to them fast enough, so they’re taking their business elsewhere. I think the problem is our old CRM system. It’s hard to use (for me), and it’s getting pretty long in the tooth. I want the Sales Manager and our management team to research and evaluate the latest CRM technologies and schedule some vendor demos right away, so we can replace our old system by the end of the quarter!”
OK, what’s wrong with that approach? First, the CEO didn’t begin by asking any questions. (…a sign of a “Command and Control” decision process) Is the CRM system really the problem causing decreased sales? After all, it could be many other factors, or even a combination of several of them.
By starting the decision process based on (1) an “Assumption” predicated on hearsay from customers, and not facts, (2) “Framing” the decision before the problem is actually discovered, and (3) “rushing to judgement” with an artificial time frame, before he knows the real issues, he has now pointed his staff in what may likely turn out to be the entirely wrong direction! A direction that will certainly be time-consuming, costly, and will take many months to find out if he was right or wrong. In the meantime, because his staff is tied-down in a laborious project, they are not able to make changes in the business process to potentially fix the problem, or have the time to explore new innovations that could dramatically increase sales. This is not decision-making, this is “gambling”!
The bottom-line is all about “Asking the Right Questions“, not necessarily what you ‘think’ the questions should be. Getting to the “right” questions, is a process that requires the knowledge, and expertise of many people, and following a discovery methodology to make sure all bases are covered, and finally (drum-roll please!), beginning with an “Open Mind“!
We’ll explore more about “Asking the Right Questions” in an upcoming blog article in this series. See you then!