How To Make Quick Decisions

Fast decision making is a skill - one you can learn. It's a valuable skill to have. People and businesses that can make quicker decisions can execute faster and more frequently. They can make refinements to their products and services faster. They can ship more with less all because of quick decision making processes.

There are a few different types of quick decisions depending on what needs deciding. Where to get lunch today can be made in moments. What state to expand to next can be made in an hour. Do we list the company for sale can be made in a few days.

Not all quick decisions are made in a split second, not all take days or weeks. Different types of decisions take different types of processes. (Here's a great article on that.)

Decisions aren't permanent.

Decisions aren't permanent. Almost no decisions that have been made up to this point have been permanent. The chance your next decision is non-permanent is pretty high. Think of all the decisions you make in a day: do I get up or hit snooze?, skip breakfast to get to the office early?, drink water or soda?, tell the truth or spare their feelings?, offer a discount?, etc. The beauty of making decisions all day is that not one decision leads to an inalterable outcome.

What about bigger ones? Do I accept this job, or should I move to a new state? While those bigger decisions seem immutable, they are as temporary as leaves on a tree. You may grow out of the job or chose to move somewhere warmer or colder. If you don't like the neighborhood you are in, sell the house. If you don't like the job you just started, continue to look elsewhere. No matter what you tell yourself, those larger decisions are only temporary - they are only permanent for this exact moment. Change is the only constant in the world.

Not everyone will be happy.

Decisions makers have this challenge - keeping people affected by their decisions happy and motivated. It's an impossible task. Not everyone will be happy, not everyone will buy into the decision. Small teams can make decisions that will make everyone happy, but as the teams grow, preferences & interests grow and change, your ability to make everyone happy shrinks.

For example, I typically let my wife pick the movie we watch on a weekend evening. She struggles because I like extremely witty comedy or the silly style comedies (Slammin' Salmon, Super Troopers, Hot Rod, etc.). She is nervous that I may not like what she picks and will be upset. Either way, she picks the movie that she wants to watch. Sometimes I don't like what we watch, and if it's that big a problem we change the movie (decisions aren't permanent).

A great challenge to this: when asked a preference or opinion like what do you want to eat tonight? Don't reflect the question with, "What sounds good to you?". Instead, state your preference, make a decisions and stand by it.

Tuned in people make the fastest decisions.

Have you ever asked someone to make a decision and they asked a question back that made you realize their out of touch? Like what market do you think we can expand in next, and they respond with, "which ones are we in already?". Tuned in people make the fastest decisions.

People who are tuned in and present make the fastest decisions because they can skip the information gathering phase of deciding something - they have been gathering information constantly. These are the people who in meetings have answers to questions on the spot. They are the ones who know where their operation is hurting and needs help, and what is excelling and can run itself.

If you want to make faster decisions, get more engaged.

Your intuition is typically right.

Most of us have gut responses when asked a question. Does this look good? Should we hire that person? We get a instinctual response when asked those questions - those should be our guiding force in making a decision. Your intuition is typically right.

When we debate and belabor things over in our mind - specifically that our intuition and gut are wrong, we over analyze and waste time. If you start the decisions with the basis that your intuition and gut gave you a nudge for a reason, you can act faster.

Small groups decide; large groups execute.

I was in a large group making a decision. We were trying to decide if we build out technology to utilize weight in motion scales at our facility instead of static scales. There were numerous cost advantages and operational efficiencies to the weigh in motion system. It seemed like all systems go until some of the managers began asking about the exceptions. The conversation quickly turned from what can we do to implement this to why we can't. The list of one off exceptions kept growing and growing. They were all things that were unlikely to happen, would be an issue no matter what, or be an easy fix. After weeks of deliberation, the group decided not to move forward with the project because of this exception list.

When large groups gather, the conversations can be side tracked easily and shift form whats possible to why not. Decision making is best left to a person or small group of people, then passed to a large group for execution of the decision.

The key to making decisions fast.

If you want to work on your ability to make a fast decision (trust me, you do), then work on these points a little each day. Get over the fear that your decision will be permanent. Start answering questions on the spot and don't say, " let me check", or "what do you think/want". Remember your intuition is there as a guide for a reason. Large groups can never reach a decision quickly or efficiently.  

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