The art of decision making in business: when to go slow—and when to go

The art of decision making in business: when to go slow—and when to go

You have an idea. It’s a good idea. Scratch that. It’s a great idea.

But how do you know if it’s an idea whose time—at least where your organization is concerned—has come?

Conventional wisdom says you need plenty of resources (people, time and money). You need buy-in from key stakeholders. You need support at the top levels of the organization. And don’t forget a great plan and a doable timeline.

But everyone knows that stuff.

Here are some less obvious ways to know the time is not yet right to push for and drive a major change:

You haven’t found the deeper meaning.

Find a deeper meaning

We all like to feel like we’re part of something bigger. We all love to feel an esprit de corps and sense of genuine teamwork that transforms a group of individuals into a real team.

The best projects help foster that sense of teamwork by helping people feel they will make a real impact—especially on the lives of other people. Maybe those people are customers. Maybe they’re employees. Maybe they’re in the community.

What is not a “maybe” is the fact that genuine meaning is almost always found in making the lives of other people better.

No matter how technical the project, your job is to help your team understand how their hard work will make a difference for other people and, in the process, for themselves.

Feeling a true purpose starts with knowing what you should care about and, more importantly, why you should care. Never start a project until you’ve found the meaning in that project and are ready to inspire other people to not only work towards but to actively embrace that meaning.

Do that and you’ve already gone a long way towards ensuring success.

You haven’t found a way to help employees achieve personal goals.

Help employees achieve personal goals

Employees naturally try to achieve company goals.

Want people to try harder? Find a way to show that what they will do will benefit them as much as it does the company. After all, will you work harder for a company or for yourself?

Take the time to determine how each member of the team will personally benefit from the project. Maybe it’s a chance to learn new skills. Maybe it’s a chance to shine in a leadership role. Maybe it’s a chance to do a lot more of what they love to do. Maybe it’s a stepping stone to a promotion.

Then explain why you’re glad each person is on the team and what’s in it for them. Say, “I’m excited to have you on the team because everyone will see what a great leader you are.”

Employees who feel a sense of personal purpose almost always outperform employees who feel a sense of company purpose. And they have a lot more fun doing it.

Know your employees well enough to tap the personal, not just the professional, and then let them know how they will benefit.

Never start a project until you can define not just how the company will benefit but how the employees involved will benefit.

You haven’t committed to actively seeking input.

Engaged employees have ideas; take away opportunities for them to make suggestions, or instantly disregard their ideas without consideration, and they immediately disengage.

And the project suffers.

Every project is more successful when employees make suggestions, critique approaches and actively seek to find an even better way. But they do that can’t unless you make that possible. Decide ahead of time that you will ask leading questions, probe gently and make team members feel comfortable proposing different ways to achieve the goal.

And when an idea isn’t feasible, always take the time to explain why.

Never start a project until you’ve thought of ways to help employees contribute more than just their labor, and you’ve committed to ensuring employees know their input is not just appreciated but valued.

You haven’t decided who are the best people to make decisions.

Even if an issue is incredibly complex, you sometimes only need to make one decision: who is the best person to make the decision?

Usually that person is not you. You may not be the subject matter expert. You may not be an experienced user. You may not have the technical,  financial or political skills.

But someone on your team does.

Decide ahead of time—at least in an overall sense—the people who are best suited to make certain types of decisions. And then let everyone know those people have the authority to make those decisions.

Never start a project until you have decided who will make what decisions, and never ever assume that person is always you.

Sometimes the smartest thing you can do is to determine who is really the smartest person…and then step back and let her decide.

What are some of your tips for perfecting the art of business decision making? Let us know in the comments below.