Decision-making is never easy. Choosing what needs to happen rests on the knowledge, skills, understanding, and values of the person and/or people making decisions.
This week, I consulted in three different sectors where one of the common challenges shared was ineffective decision-making in the workplace. Clients provided insights about the consequences of not having a seat at the table or not being heard when leaders make decisions. For some organisations, the financial cost resulted in an operation ‘’shutdown’’; for others, the human cost, that is, lack of trust, increased disengagement, and ongoing frustration, not only resulted in employees being unable to do their work effectively but also resulted in the loss of hope for organisational growth.
With permission, my clients have allowed me to share some of the implications of recent workplace decisions that have impacted their roles.
“As a middle leader, I am restricted in my decisions to support my team.”
“In my workplace, decisions are often made by leaders who do not work on the front line and have limited understanding about why we do things the way we do."
“The director of our organisation has issued a directive and, in doing so, has failed to consider the fundamental implications for our business area.”
Moore (2022) highlights that making good decisions without hesitation or procrastination is critical for new leaders. Yet, in a survey of 1200 business leaders conducted by McKinsey Research (2019), 54% of all those interviewed spent more than 30% of their time making decisions resulting in 61% being ineffectual. Likened to “a tug of war”, supporting employees and their roles and meeting the needs of the “bottom line” is an ongoing battle.
So, let’s consider four different types of decisions and leadership styles.
Broad, unfamiliar and infrequent but high-risk decisions are known as “big-bet”. Narrow, unfamiliar, and infrequent decisions are “ad-hoc’’ whilst broad, familiar, and frequent decisions are recognised as “cross-cutting”. Of course, we are all familiar with delegated decisions that tend to be frequent, narrow, and low risk. With different types of decisions, there are also different types of decision-makers whose decision-making is defined by their level of involvement and leadership style. Decision-makers vary from micromanagers to helicopter bosses to cheerleaders and coaches. So, this leaves one to ponder what is an effective decision-making process and what are the criteria for an effective decision-maker.
Tips and Tricks for Consideration
If we want to ensure effective decision-making, we may wish to consider the following three points:
1. Where possible, consult at all levels of the organisation to gather cross-cutting insights into the business.
2. Establish decision-making criteria, policy, and practices to ensure consistency in approach across the team and or organisation.
3. Empower employees to engage in delegated decision-making successfully.
a. Clarify roles, responsibilities, and business strategy comprehension.
b. Provide coaching opportunities and include frontline employees.
c. Grow a culture of empowerment that include forums for rapid debate.
How do you engage in decision-making? What are the fundamental principles that guide you?