Making the right choices is what makes the difference between successful and struggling businesses. Why are choices so difficult and how to go about making better choices?
The right choices make a successful business
WHY IS DECISION MAKING DIFFICULT
No one wants you to make the right choice
Everyone around you wants you to make a choice that benefits them. Your staff want their project to go ahead, they want their suggestions to be followed. Worse are business consultants who will constantly tell you that "You must be doing this or doing that", as if all businesses should do exactly the same things.
At one time it was every business must have a webpage, then it was to have a facebook page, then you must be blogging or tweeting. Many social media experts make it sound like anyone who advertises is an idiot, yet advertising as a way to promoting business is on the rise and moving into new areas.
No one wants you to make the right choice for you, they want you to make the right choice for them.
We have never been taught to choose
One of the things that amuses me about how we are taught choice at school and even university is that it is about choosing between good and bad. This is usually a very easy choice. The choice of do you want 1 million dollars or a punch in the face is easy.
In business and in life we are often choosing between good and better or sometimes between bad and worse. Yet everywhere we are seeing everything being represented as choices between good and bad when they are not. For example, do you want 1 Million dollars in cash, gold bullion or shares? A choice like this takes a lot more time and effort to make.
Choices are between good and better
Choice is about uncertainty
The biggest problem in business is uncertainty. We have to choose a new staff member, where we are going to put our marketing budget or location.
I have worked with several people who, while trying to set up a business, ask for 100% guarantees about everything. You can find people who will tell you present things in black and white ways, but for the rest of us, we have to be able to make decisions in an uncertain world.
We have a lot of trouble understanding risk. The global financial crisis was partially the result of high risk, high return investment strategies. By not understanding the risk the high return investments looked better than the low return ones.
Every decision that we make contains a risk. Understand that every promise of a win contains a risk of a failure.
HOW TO MAKE BETTER DECISIONS?
Get advice that supports decisions
Work with consultants who provide information to support choices. It is amusing to see "consultants" stumble over themselves trying to come back from some absolute statement then saying "It depends". This is not helpful.
Great consultants will explain when and why each choice is suitable. A simple example is in sales. Should who talk more or listen more. Some sales people talk you into a sale and others will let you talk yourself into a sale. But a great sales person will work out what sort of customer you are and decide between talking and listening.
Make decision tables
I can't tell you how much I love decision tables. I have often sat in meetings going around in circles and pull out a decision table. It might take 10 minutes to lay out a decision table which often means the decision is made in 11 minutes followed at least another 10 minutes of people desperately trying to understand why they thought the decision was hard.
Have the right people make decisions in the right way
Many managers believe that their job is to make decisions. This is a hard one for business owners as while they obviously have the right to make whatever decision they want to make, often they shouldn't.
If the job of manager is not to make decisions what is their job? It is to make sure the right decision is made. I use a simple rule here. Decisions should be made in a way that requires the quickest transfer of information.
Take the example of a manager who wants to buy a new laptop. They talk to their IT manager who asks a few simple questions such as how they plan to use it and the budget they are looking at. Then the IT manager finds a few models that they then present to the manager who then makes the final choice. A simple quick and efficient process.
Managers who are unable to facilitate the group decision making process often feel compelled to make all the decisions themselves behind locked doors.
MOVING FORWARD WITH DECISIONS
Decisions are about saying "Yes" to the right thing
Managers should be involved with every decision that affects them. This doesn't mean that they make every decision simply that they ask for, oversee, communicate about and sometimes make decisions.