As a manager, we all know that overused cliche that our time is precious. There are always more things to do in a day than there is time to complete these tasks. When you look at the activity we do as managers it predominantly is made up of making decisions. In any one day, scores of decisions get made. Some of these decisions are easy and rely on your strength as a manager, and others rely on group consensus due to the complexity or broad nature of the issue. Either way, your business relies on you making decisions, and the RIGHT ONES!!


As business becomes leaner and fewer resources are expected to deliver more, decisions need to be made faster to keep up with the workload. Smaller amounts of time to make decisions are expected without compromising on the decision quality. As managers find themselves running out of time to make decisions, the era's of ‘empowerment’ and ‘workforce engagement’ echo down the corridors. “Allow the one’s with the knowledge to make the decision”.


Business upon business felt the pain of poor decisions. ‘We empower them and all they do is take advantage of the situation and make the decision suit them’. So where does that leave us? Managers took back the responsibility and added hours to their day to suit. Was empowerment the wrong strategy? Why are there so many different opinions for the same decision?


The solution is simple, get your people to make decisions like you do!! Sounds tough? ‘How do I get them all to think like me?’ Well firstly, lets analyse how you make decisions….


Whether consciously or sub-consciously, good managers all go through a systematic process to make a decision. Initially, they are very clear on what decision has to be made. From there they mentally list out what are the benefits to the business this decision must uphold. Almost automatically they weigh these benefits to ones that are very important to others which are ‘nice to have’. With these weighted benefits, options can now be rationally evaluated to their ability to satisfy the business need. And finally, a risk assessment of making this decision is run to ensure nothing drastic can go wrong.


So, if this is the way you make decisions, what needs to be done to make your people do the same? Lets run through some basic steps that will bring back your faith in empowerment and provide you with spare hours in the day:


  1. Make it visible:- Often, the reason why your people do not make decisions the same way you do is that they never see it! The process you use to make decisions is all in your head! Making your thinking visible is the first step in allowing your people to get an insight into the way you do things and sets the expectation of what is expected from them.
  2. Formulate a Decision Statement:- Be very clear to your people what it is you want decided. Sounds easy but you would be surprised on how many times decisions are doomed from the start because what needs to be decided is unclear.
  3. Be clear on the objectives or benefits of the decision:- This is the critical step which will make or break the process. Formulation of objectives for the decision will not only ensure that a consistent focus on the business is held constant, it will also ensure bias on options are minimised and the best option for the business will emerge.
  4. Rate your objectives to the business goals:- Some objectives are worth more than others. For instance, minimise ease of operation may rate much higher than maximise transportability. If this is so, it should influence the decision more and hold greater influence in the decision.
  5. Evaluate Options to weighted Objectives:- Now is the time to be rational!! Look at the options that will satisfy the decision and evaluate them to your objectives. Doing this will ensure that options which satisfy objectives important to your business will rate higher than those who don’t. Now your business is deciding on the best option, not the personality!!!
  6. Check for adverse consequences:- Even though the option satisfies the business objectives perfectly, does not mean that this is the best choice. There may be some very logical reasons why this option will fail. For instance, imagine that you buy some equipment from a new supplier which looks great and comes at a great price. You change from your current reliable supplier and find out that 3 months after your purchase, the model you purchased is out of date and no longer supported. If this was a risk at the start, you may not be willing to take that risk for the short term gain.
  7. Make the best balanced choice:- Now is the time to make the choice. You have your options scored and the risks documented. Are you willing to accept the risk on your top scoring option? What about the option that scored second? Its all about benefits verses risk.

This type of decision making process can be documented on one sheet. Not pages and pages of supporting data, reports, road tests and salesman glossies! It’s direct, to the point, completely focussed on your business direction and rational. What else could you ask from your employees?


There are many examples of where this system works extremely well and allows an empowered workforce make the decision like the manager would. Some that come to mind are:


Capital Expenditure:- Imagine how easy it would be if your CAPEX system followed this path. Forget the pages and pages of ‘justifications’. Just one page (with supporting data if necessary). Objectives for the purchase (in line with the business), options to satisfy the business needs scored up and risks on choosing any of the options. What an easy way to signoff!

Suppliers:- ‘There isn’t a month that goes by where some salesman is trying to get me to change my supplier of product X’. Now you have a system to evaluate these potential ‘opportunities’. Rationally put the new supplier against your current supplier to see if their offering holds true to your business objectives. Your Purchasing personnel may not even have to bother you as they are making decisions in line with best business practices!

Project Choices:- With 50 projects on the run at any one time, its no wonder your people do not have time to keep the business ticking over!  Now you have a way of choosing projects to work on that fit the business objectives. How do the projects rate? How many projects do we need to run to satisfy this years targets? Ordering projects in line with business objectives is one of the best ways to ensure that you are working on the right things to make a difference. And if another project arises? But it through the project prioritiser and see if it does need to start immediately or wait its turn!!


Hiring personnel:- What are the business objectives for the hire of this new position in the company? What data do you need to be able to evaluate each candidate rationally? What is the risk of taking this particular candidate. Again, following a rational approach will not only allow you to evaluate candidates in terms of the business objectives, it ensures that whoever is doing the interviewing comes out with the same outcome as others. You have taken out the ‘bias’.

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