Improve Decision Making During Uncertainty

Improve Decision Making During Uncertainty
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Improve Decision Making During Uncertainty — A Skill that Matters
Simply defined, decision making is the act of selecting between two or more courses of action. We know that making sound decisions at work involves the process of identifying a decision, pulling together relevant information and stakeholders, and evaluating various options.

The goal of decision making is to achieve a certain outcome in a certain way — and both should guide your decision making process.

But What If…
Some decisions are uncomplicated and easy to arrive at. But what if you can’t gather all the relevant information, or if the desired result is not clear, or if stakeholders have conflicting agendas? How do you decide between two competing but worthy alternatives like cutting costs versus spending more time with customers?

As the complexity and stakes increase, decision making often becomes more difficult and more stressful.

And yet, organizations are encouraged to give their employees more autonomy around making decisions that bear directly on their jobs and to empower employees to contribute to decisions that will affect the workforce as a whole — both of which have a powerful impact on performance and employee engagement.

Leadership’s Role in Decision Making
We believe it is up to leaders to create the environment, build the competencies, and instill the confidence for individuals and teams to make good decisions — even when there is strategic ambiguity and the stakes are high. Leaders need to help employees make the right decisions in the right way at the right speed.

To Improve Decision-Making During Times of Uncertainty, Put First Things First
To help employees navigate toward the “right” decision, let’s begin with the basics:

  1. Set the Stage with Strategic Clarity
    Effective decision making all starts with making sure that your employees understand and buy into the company’s strategy for success. Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing teams. 

    A clear, well understood, and agreed-upon organization-wide strategy creates the necessary context for effective change and decision making.  Clarity enables everyone to start with the same assumptions, priorities, and decision making rights.

    Do not expect decision making to improve if you have high levels of strategic ambiguity, misalignment, or conflict.
  2. Invest in Building Decision Making Capabilities
    Make sure you provide employees with targeted decision making training focused on teaching people how to clarify the decision to be made, follow a consistent decision making process, and communicate decisions for greater commitment and buy-in.

    The design should include reviewing past decisions and tackling upcoming high stakes decisions.  Use relevant scenarios to allow people to practice making decisions where they are forced to make trade-offs between various “good” alternatives.

    Then, like a project post mortem, review the decision together with on-the-spot, specific feedback, and time to reflect on the process and the outcome ? especially with respect to the effect that decisions can have on company culture, strategy, finances, co-workers, and customers.
  3. Create Meaningful Reinforcement Mechanisms
    Like any behavior change, new decision making processes and skills require consistent, frequent, and meaningful reinforcement to make them stick. 

    Recognize and reward what you want and have proportionate consequences for those who do not adopt the new ways.  Ensure that leaders and high performers visibly model the principles that should guide decisions and ensure that employees have a clear line of sight into how their decisions fit into the overall company culture and strategy.

The Bottom Line
In times of uncertainty especially, the decisions you make matter. How you decide in ambiguous situations or when several alternatives hold promise can have a huge impact on performance and morale. Are you doing all you can to help your employees improve their decision making capabilities?

To learn more about how managers can make better decisions, download 3 Proven Steps to Set Your Team Up to Make Better Decisions

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