As business leaders and entrepreneurs it’s vital that we make the right decisions. But making them can be a scary proposition. What if it’s the wrong decision? What if something later occurs to me that I hadn’t thought of at the time? How do I know that this is the right decision based on the current situation?
The worst thing you can do is put off making the decision. Procrastination can often be more harmful than making the wrong decision.
Here’s how to get it right.
Most leaders and managers will see a problem and make a decision based on what they think, which could be based on their experience and gut-feel. Often this will suffice for small decisions where the consequences of getting it wrong may have little impact.
But for more challenging and complex problems it is vital that you reach the right answer because the wrong one could have far-reaching, damaging consequences.
So how do you make sure that you reach the right answer? You think of the decision-making process as a stubby pencil.
More to the point, think of a stubby pencil that has been sharpened at both ends.
At one point you have the challenge or goal or subject that you need to make a decision on. At the other you have the answer. You start with one and end with one.
The next step is to identify all the possible options that you have for moving forward. These options would fan out from this starting point. This forms the V shape from the point of the pencil out to it’s body.
Don’t critique each option as you identify it, simply let it exist – keep your mind (and that of your team if you have them) in this identifying mode.
For example, a challenge to increase sales will throw up options such as attract and convert more prospects, increase the spend of current customers, focus on top 5 players in each sector, develop and launch a new product to current market sectors, enter a new market with current products and services, open up new geographical regions and more.
Now you should have a set of options for you to discuss and evaluate. This is the body of the stubby pencil. During this phase you should identify the different ways in which each option could be realised.
For example, to attract and convert more prospects your options will probably include increasing your marketing effort both online and offline, hiring a telemarketing firm, increasing your regional sales teams, getting a distribution partner and so on.
Having identified the number of ways each option could be realised you should then evaluate the likelihood of success. What would have to be in place to make that option work? For example, to increase your marketing effort you will need to increase your budget and you may need to increase the marketing team and bring in new expertise and so on.
Having done that you’re then able to identify what could stop that from happening. For example, expanding your marketing team by hiring more people might be too big a barrier from a cost point of view so what would reduce that barrier? Could you outsource your marketing effort? If you can then the option is still valid, if you can’t then that option is closed.
The option of attracting and converting more prospects itself isn’t closed, it’s just that particular path that is. You still have the telemarketing, regional sales, distribution and other paths to explore, to investigate what would be needed for success and what barriers stand in your way, and either to take forward or eliminate.
Through debate, further research, testing, eventually you will narrow down your options, which is represented by the other side of the stubby pencil until you identify your best option for achieving that original challenge – the other point of the stubby pencil.
Of course, your original challenge could result in more than one viable path and your pencil will look odd because it has one point at one end (the start) and maybe 3 points at the other (the end). Rather like a 3-necked guitar that a 70’s rock guitarist might have used.
This is fine because out of all the myriad of options you’ve identified 3 viable ways to address the challenge. These 3 solutions can be aligned and implemented in parallel to give you the overall results you’re looking for.
The key point in all of this is to make sure that when you do face an important decision or a big challenge you make sure you identify all the options first and then work through them to find the best paths to take.
Whether it’s how to grow the business, whether to enter a new market sector or to develop a new product or how to reduce your staff turnover, or how to reduce cost or how to best take your business to the next level, making the big decisions can be scary not least because of the impact the wrong decision can have on the business.
A systematic approach like this will take away much of that fear and uncertainty by highlighting the best course or courses of action to take.
The best approach for these kind of crossroad-type challenges is to bring in someone who can facilitate these kinds of decision-making meetings. If you need help to facilitate meetings like this and to make the right strategic decisions then email me with your challenge and I’ll let you know how I can help.