Dipti Parmar
Dipti Parmar 11 January 2014

How to get better at Decision-making

Tips on how to improve your decision-making skill and save money (and time).

Can a project take forever to complete? Is it all right for project managers or business owners to take their own time when it comes to making decisions?


Not when time doesn’t have a premium attached to it. Also, not when clients are waiting for the projects to complete.

Projects, however, have a reputation to stretch into forever-ville. There are times when nothing seems to move. That’s why decisiveness is one of those desirable traits in leaders, business managers, project managers, and business owners. If nothing moves in the company without a decision, the speed of decision-making has everything to do with profitability, reputation, and customer delight (which brings us back to profitability again).


Gary Marcus who wrote the book Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind likens our minds to “Kluge” – a clumsy approach to problem solving. You cannot afford to have that Kluge when you run a business or when you are in-charge of projects.


Here’s how to improve your decision-making skill and save money (and time):


Work on alternative evaluation speed


The sensible thing to do when faced with the moment of truth while making decisions is to choose an alternative. Decisive people evaluate alternatives quickly. To do that, however, you’ll need to run down your choices – each with its pros and cons – and then choose the right alternative, which is inline with the problem at hand. It takes years of practice, an analytical mind, and a tough stand to do so. So, be it.


Kenneth R.Brousseau, Michael L. Driver, Gary Hourihan, and Rikard Larsson wrote about their study on decision-making for HBR blogs and noted that decision-making styles depend on how people consume information and choose options.


For instance,  “Maximizers” – people who won’t rest until they research, analyze, and choose the right option – often take well-informed decisions but at the cost of time and money. Others (also called “Satisficers”) take key facts and leap to decisions. These people take less time but could often take wrong decisions.


Successful decision-making draws on a balance between the two. What kind of decisions do you take?


Have contingency plans


What if your decision leads you to the firing room? What happens if your decision ruins the project or tanks business profits? You’ll need contingency plans just in case these occasions arise. To make those contingency plans, you’ll still need that list of alternatives, a plan B, and maybe a Plan C.


The more prepared you are, the better your decision-making ability shapes up.


Results are everything

We could take some heat for this, right now, but business is all about results. It’s not about people. On one hand, it’s the people involved in a team that make things happen.


Yet, the results will matter more. If your decision-making is focused on results, you’ll achieve what you set out to do. Focus on people (it’s another approach, of course), and your decisions will linger. You’ll suffer from even more parameters – thanks to the people involved -- to base your decision on.


Catering to every individual whim – while working with a team -- is almost impossible.

Going by’s explanation on decision-making, a leader’s task is to benefit the organization he or she represents.


Now, that won’t come without upsetting a few people.


You can change everything. Including wrong decisions


Nothing stays forever, including the trailing effect of your decisions. Good or bad, wrong or right, you always have the power to come back to change things the way you want them to be.


Let’s assume that you had to decide on a web-based project management solution to work and collaborate with your team. You picked up Microsoft Project based on your own evaluation of the product. If it doesn’t work out well for you, it won’t take too long for you to switch to a Microsoft alternative such as WorkZone Asana, or Trello. Now, these aren’t like even more important decisions, but you know where we are going with this, don’t you?


There’s usually an “undo” button – tough or easy; quick or long. There are plenty of come back stories of managers and business owners who take accountability and correct their own wrong. They smart up to their own faults. They still make things happen. According to Michael Goldman, decision traps have remedies.


Practice courage


It takes courage to take a decision, and own up to the ramifications of those decisions. In business context, it could mean being accountable for losses while overseeing projects.


Not everyone is built to take it in. Some people can work under such pressure, and many cannot. It takes courage to be a leader and that’s because it’s lonely at the top. There won’t be anyone there to support you or to guide you. To get better at making decisions, you have to be fearless and face your bad moves. Mike Myatt of believes that it’s one of those skills every great leader has.


How about you?


Get help


Find a mentor. Seek help from someone who’s been in your shoes earlier. Read up on what others did in similar situations. Further, if you can get yourself a cohort as a sounding board to bounce your ideas, analyze information, and test the fallout your decisions, do so.


Just having someone nearby to test your theories or to sound off your decisions could give a lot more clarity than running it in your head all day long. Perspectives, sometimes, give clarity.


Apart from the decision-making style called “avoidance”, every other style of decision-making is an acceptable one. Depending on circumstances, situations, and the speed with which you’d have to make decisions, some styles of decision-making work better than the others.


The important aspect of decision-making is to get it right, more often than not. How do you go about making decisions? How do you handle projects? What do you do when you face the guns?


Share a few ways that work well for decision-making. Tell us all about your own style of decision-making.


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