The Five Key Qualities of a Decision-Maker

StrategyDriven Decision-Making Article | The Five Key Qualities of a Decision-MakerDecision-making is one of the most important qualities when it comes to successfully running a business. Without being able to make the right decisions a business is likely to completely flounder. That’s why it’s so important to know which qualities separate a proper decision-maker from somebody who is simply coasting. Whether you are the CEO of a company but are unsure of how to proceed or you are looking to rise up the ranks of your company through firm and decisive action, you have come to the right place. Read on now for all you need to know about decision-making.

Research

A good business leader knows that no decision should ever be entered into lightly, as there can be a whole bunch of factors that could come into play once a decision has been gone into. That’s why you should make sure to do as much research as you can within the given time-frame as well as putting in the time to learn key skills and insights about the business. For key learnings about how to get better insights into your business, you should check out the services of a small business consultant today.

Listening

Listening is often an underrated part of the decision-making process, but the best CEOs know that they are not so often operating autocracies, but take all ideas in-hand before finally committing to a final decision. Take the example of the long-serving chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, who is often praised for her ability to listen to everyone before finally taking her own initiative.

Understand Risk

All decisions are about balancing risk in some way. After all, no matter which decision that you make in the end, you might encounter some difficulty along the way. By doing your research and understanding all the different risks involved, you will be able to make the best possible decision possible for your business.

Deliberation

Only the worst decision-makers jump rashly into a new business plan. It is worth fully deliberating and taking your time before you decide to commit to an idea. The worst decision you can make is a quick one, as this can definitely backfire. Remember it’s always better to not do something risky than to commit at all, meaning that you should be aware of all the different outcomes before making that final commitment.

Decisiveness

Intense deliberation should never be confused with indecisiveness. Instead, it is about weighing up options before committing to one. This mean that eventually you want to be able to make a key choice, good or bad, to allow the company to move forward. One of the worst options is to take too long to come to a final conclusion as this can slow down company processes completely and also cause your employees to start making decision themselves without your authority. Instead, once you have an idea of what you want to do, it’s important to take the lead, make that decision and then be responsible for any possible outcome.

Strategy as a Problem Solving Process

StrategyDriven Decision Making Article |problem solving |Strategy as a Problem Solving Process“The old paradigm of strategy departments and planning cycles has been overthrown by agile and rapid team-based problem solving, providing better solutions and better organization alignment to implement.” These comments by Mehrdad Baghai, strategist and author, commend our book Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill that Changes Everything. But what does it mean to adopt agile and rapid team-based problem solving, where strategy becomes a problem solving process?

Teams and agile methodology have become the dominant form of organization for environments featuring high uncertainty and rapid change, where business models are challenged by disrupters. In these settings the most effective teams follow the 7 steps process for bulletproof problem solving, by asking themselves the following questions:

1. Are we working on the right problem? Defining a problem well is often said to take you more than halfway to the solution. This invariably leads to a clear problem statement of the challenges you have to address, the decision context, problem boundaries and success criteria.

2. Have we broken down the problem into key issues to address? Complex problems can rarely be solved without breaking the larger problem into parts. How you disaggregate or cleave a problem has a big impact on the insight you get into a problem. We show numerous examples from return on invested capital logic trees, to logic trees that help you decide whether to put solar panels on your roof.

3. Are our priorities for analysis the right ones? For efficient use of team resources you need to be working on the issues where the impact is high and you have a significant ability to influence the outcome. This may require a lot of debate in the team. That’s important too.

4. Have we brought outside perspectives and diversity of views to bear in the team? We urge teams to have hypotheses about the answer but open them to challenge in the team, by having diverse perspectives, role playing and actively tapping expertise outside the team. Really good teams porpoise frequently between the hypothesis and the data, sharpening the hypothesis along the way. The data comes in the form of facts and analysis. Yes facts and analysis still make a huge difference to problem solving outcomes.

5. Do we have the right analytic toolkit for the problem? Teams will, and should, make use of heuristics and rules of thumb to scope problems and knock out infeasible solutions. At times, to solve a problem involves understanding root causes or predicting an outcome. That’s when you have to bring out the analytic big guns such as regression, simulation, A/B experiments and machine learning. You can even crowdsource your solutions with Kaggle competitions.

6. Are we carefully synthesizing our findings? We like the way the successful investor Ray Dalio expresses it ‘The quality of your synthesis will determine the quality of your decision making.’ The process we follow is to draw together findings on the key issues into an overall picture, ideally with visualization to show linkages and highlight key drivers or root causes.

7. Have we presented our findings in a compelling narrative that is likely to lead to action? This final step is so often underdone and the source of team disappointment. Doing it the right way involves choosing a governing thought from the synthesis, accompanied by a logical argument structure that may be based on inductive or deductive reasoning.

When this process is complete, teams have reached the holy grail of strategy as a problem solving process as Richard Rumelt put it in Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Rumelt succinctly describes ‘a strategy is a coherent set of analyses, concepts, policies, arguments and actions that respond to a high stakes challenge.’ We agree and know that the way to get there is through a 7-step problem solving process.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Robert McLeanRobert McLean is co-author, with Charles Conn, of Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything (Wiley 2019). McLean is a Director Emeritus of McKinsey and Company and led the Australian and New Zealand McKinsey practice for eight years.

Decision-Making Warning Flag 1b – Weak Analogies

StrategyDriven Decision Making Article | Decision-Making Warning Flag 1b - Weak Analogies“The fallacy of Weak analogy is committed when a conclusion is based on an insufficient, poor, or inadequate analogy. The analogy offered as evidence is faulty because it is irrelevant; the claimed similarity is superficial or unrelated to the issue at stake in the argument. Or the analogy may be relevant to some extent yet overlooks or ignores significant dissimilarities between the analogs.”

Paul Leclerc
Community College of Rhode Island

Citizens have been asked to cast their vote for a referendum requiring those seeking to purchase a hammer to undergo a registration process similar to that for firearms. Supporters argue that because hammers, like guns, have metal parts and can be used to kill people that these tools should be legally controlled as guns are. These proponents are using a Weak Analogy to advance their position.

Weak analogies are used to support business decisions every day. As with all logic errors, decision-makers fall prey to the appearance of reasonableness, especially when the position supported justifies their desired course of action. Although difficult, recognizing and eliminating the use of Weak Analogies in decision-making is absolutely necessary.


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Additional Information

Additional insight to the warning signs, causes, and results of logic errors can be found in the StrategyDriven website feature: Decision-Making Warning Flag 1 – Logic Fallacies Introduction.

Decision-Making Warning Flag 1a – The Gambler’s Fallacy

StrategyDriven Decision-Making Article | Decision-Making Warning Flag 1a - The Gambler's Fallacy“The Gambler’s Fallacy, also known as the Monte Carlo Fallacy, is the false belief that the probability of an event in a random sequence is dependent on preceding events, its probability increasing with each successive occasion on which it fails to occur.”

Gambler’s Fallacy
Wikipedia

Seated at a roulette table, a gambler must decide on what color to place his next bet, red or black. He knows there is a 50 percent chance of getting either red or black and that the first four spins of the wheel yielded all reds. The gambler reasons that because half of all spins should result in black and the first four were red, it is more likely the fifth spin of the roulette wheel will be black and places his bet. While his logic appears reasonable, the roulette player has just fallen victim to the Gambler’s Fallacy.


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Additional Information

Additional insight to the warning signs, causes, and results of logic errors can be found in the StrategyDriven website feature: Decision-Making Warning Flag 1 – Logic Fallacies Introduction.

Decision-Making Warning Flag 2 – The Silent Nod

StrategyDriven Decision Making Article | Silent NodAll too often it is not clear to executives and managers that they are in a decision-making situation. In many of these instances, they find themselves attending a briefing during which the presenter makes a recommendation for which he or she is seeking approval. As the presentation goes on, the briefing attendees listen attentively and nod silently. No verbal decision is communicated but the nodding continues. At the end of the presentation, the presenter is songs adulated for making a thorough presentation and providing an insightful recommendation. There is applause. Exiting the meeting, the presenter remembers the affirmative statements and, most importantly the silent nods. These now become the unintended affirmative decision the presenter sought and the leaders failed to recognize they were making.


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