How to make clean-cut decisions

Last Updated Apr 24, 2008 2:32 PM EDT

This is the most important -- and most difficult -- part of a manager's job. Author W J King's advice is to keep it simple:
  1. Have the essential facts to hand: your decisions are more likely to be correct. Some, though, believe that anyone can make a decision with the relevant facts, whereas the skill of a good manager is doing without them. Find the balance by asking yourself: "Am I likely to lose more by giving a snap judgement or by waiting for more information?"
  2. Make up a code of principles, policies and rules in advance. These will ease the decision-making process.
  3. You don't have to be right every time. It's healthy to expect mistakes and take a few good risks now and then. There are few mistakes that cannot be turned into profit somehow, even if only for the experience. Equally, though, consider the consequences: don't be coerced into a mistake that creates wreckage for your business -- and you.
  4. If a decision's difficult, it's likely the pros and cons are pretty well balanced -- and the net loss cannot amount to much. It may be more important to arrive at any decision promptly than to arrive at the best decision ultimately. Take a definite position and see it through.
  5. It is futile to try and keep everyone happy when decisions involve incompatible points of view. Give everyone a fair hearing but once everyone's said their piece, deal with the matter decisively, even if it means stepping on someone's toes. Otherwise, everyone will end up dissatisfied and many will think less of you for straddling the issue.
Still on the fence? Ask yourself:
  • Does the idea expedite the project or will it only produce delays?
  • Is it fair and above-board?
  • Is it in line with custom, precedence or policy? If not, is there a good reason for departure?
  • Does it align with a previous decision or understanding? If not, is the change justifiable?
  • What are the odds? Can we accept the risk? Very often, the potential gains outweigh the worst possible consequence.
"The Unwritten Laws of Business" by W J King and updated by James Skakoon is published by Profile books.

What's the best -- or worst -- business decision you've ever made?