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Feb 10
2004

Making Decisions

Posted by: Steve Marr

Tagged in: Untagged 

A key issue for every business leader is making decisions, large and small. An easy trap to fall into, however, is engaging in endless discussions rather than moving to the decision point. Discussion and feedback have an important place, but if we focus too much time on dialogue, especially ineffective dialogue, we waste valuable time-our own and that of our colleagues. The prophet Elijah gave us a great example when he said, "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him- but if Baal, follow him" (1 Kings 18:21, nasb). Elijah understood that once the important issues had been defined, it was time to make a decision.

One method to facilitate the decision-making process is to separate meetings into three types: those for disseminating information, those for gathering information, and those for making decisions. Whether meeting one-on-one or with a group, if you want to reach a decision, make your objective clear at the beginning of the meeting. For example, you might open the meeting by saying, "We are meeting today to determine the date for launching the new product." With that clear direction, each participant will be prepared to contribute to that decision. Encourage your colleagues to share their perspectives, but don't allow a constant rehash of the same facts. Sum up what you have heard the others say, and ask if there is any new information, data, or perspectives that have not been shared. If some group members have been silent, ask them to concur with the facts presented, or share a different perspective. Then, with all the facts on the table, make the decision. The prophet Isaiah wrote, " Take counsel, execute judgment" (Isaiah 16:3, NKJV). Follow Isaiah's example and get to the action step. To maximize the effectiveness of decision-making meetings, you may need to send advance information to each participant. Be sure to let people know what decision you're expecting to make, and establish a clear expectation that each participant will have read and understood the advance material before the meeting convenes. Tell them to come prepared with questions and perspectives that will help the group reach a decision, rather than merely engage in discussion. I have had cases where managers have come to a meeting without having read the material in advance, and they have tried to steer the meeting to a discussion of what's in the material, rather than getting to the point of decision. In some instances, I have stopped the meeting and explained that because some participants have not read or studied the material, we will adjourn the meeting to another time. "Next time, folks, come prepared!"
At times, you may not have all the information necessary to make the best choice. In those cases, identify and write down what information is needed. Either research the questions yourself, or assign the task to others, but set a time when you expect to have the information. The apostle Paul wrote, "Refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels" (2 Timothy 2:23, nasb). Don't waste valuable time in meetings without the necessary information. Another time waster is discussing decisions that have already been made. Typically, all that is needed is clear communication of the decision. Unless you receive explicit feedback about why your decision was wrong, just move on. Some choices are clear. In fact, for most decisions we already have the necessary information, we simply need to use our judgment and move forward. Save your time and energy for the more difficult and complex decisions. Sometimes we may be tempted to procrastinate, to put off decisions while we wait for one more piece of information, or one more fact, before moving forward. King Solomon instructed, "If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done" (Ecclesiastes 11:4, nlt). Likewise, God spoke to Moses and said, "You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and set your journey" (Deuteronomy 1:6-7, nasb). Making decisions is a key responsibility of any business leader. By focusing on decisions rather than idle talk, we will move our businesses forward

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