Much of what managers do is
solve problems and make decisions.
Decision-making is a key role of a manager and leader. Some managers find this to be one of the most
difficult tasks to perform. They have a
fear of failure, and procrastinate mainly because they have a lack of a
structured approach. One of two things
usually happens, they either put off making the decision in the hopes that
someone else will bail them out, or even worse, make a decision using a knee
It is best to think of making
a decision, as drawing a line between two points. If you can’t draw a straight line between the two points, then
that decision should most likely be rejected.
When the line goes off into tangents, there might not be a realistic
link between the proposed action and outcome.
New managers often try to solve problems and make decisions
by reacting to them before they fully understand all of the possible
factors. They feel that the quickness
of a decision is more important than the long-term outcome. There are times when a quick decision is
needed, such as dealing with a violent act in the workplace. However, most decisions are not needed
immediately and you do in fact have the time to make the right decision. That is the key, making the right
decision. Just be careful to not let
decisions accumulate, or else you will have a backlog of both small and complex
decisions to make. You need to find the
perfect balance of knowing when to make quick and easy decisions on the fly,
and when to take time with the complex decisions.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your boss or upper management
about major problems or needs that concern you. You do not want to be known as a manager who “keeps secrets”
because you are scared of the possible repercussions. It is better to be upfront and honest, while at the same time
showing you are diligently working on the resolution. You may even find yourself working with other department managers
to rectify issues affecting your department.
There is nothing wrong with this as it shows your commitment to your
department and the company.
Define the problem or need before you make the
decision. Ask yourself, and others if
needed, the following who, what, when, where, how and why type of
questions. In lesson 9 we will discuss
cost-benefit and task management tools, however, here are 12 steps to follow to
use as a guideline when making important decisions:
should make the decision? First
of all, you might be looking at a problem or need that is not your
decision to make. Be sure you are
not stepping on anyone’s toes, even though your heart is in the right
place. If you are the one to make
the decision, go to the next step.
makes you think there is a problem, or why the need? Before you can start to make any
decisions, you need to be absolutely clear the problem or need is
valid. Make sure you consider
those who will be affected by the decision. Talk to some key staff members to make sure you and your
staff fully understands the nature of the problem or need. You want people who will speak up, are
efficient, take necessary risks, have somewhat opposing views, and are
strongly motivated. There are
times when it seems like the problem or need comes at you like “the sky is
falling,” but when you take the time to truly investigate the problem or
need, you might find it is overly exaggerated. This happens quite often as emotions take over logic. For instance, is it one person complaining
about a particular situation or does everyone feel the same way? Is there a common complaint from your
customers or just one or two disgruntled people who will never be
happy? Is there a common trend or
is it just speculation? Do you
really need to invest in a new database or can you work with what you’ve
got? Dig deep to find if there is
a true problem, and then start on finding ways to improve. You don’t want to fix something that is
not broke. If you indeed suspect
there is a problem, follow steps 3 through 12:
is the problem or need? Is it
internal or external? Is it in
your department or somewhere else?
Is it only in certain areas of your network? Is it one employee or the whole
group? You need to know where the
problem or need lies before you can begin to make the right decision to
fix or buy.
is it happening or needed? Is
it certain parts of the day? Is it
when there is over usage? Is it
when shifts overlap? Is it always
at the end of the month? Is it
every time there is a new software release? By pinpointing when the problem happens, it helps greatly in
detecting the root cause of the issue.
is causing the problem or need?
Is the problem process related?
A lack of training? Old and
slow computers causing longer handle times, which in turn is affecting
customer satisfaction? Are there
not enough employees to handle the amount of calls? Is it a design or engineering flaw? Is it quality control issues? You need to get with key staff members
to truly determine the root cause of the issue. Determining you have a problem is useless if you, or another
department, cannot find the cause.
complex is the problem or need?
The more complex the problem or need, the deeper you will have to
dig. Don’t be afraid to go back to
the drawing board until you are fully confident with the choices you have
is the urgency and how should you prioritize? Some problems are more important than
others. You would not want to work
on a complex minor issue when you have an easy major issue that should be
dealt with immediately.
is the ideal outcome? When you
are faced with a big decision, it is easy to get lost in the detail and
circumstances. Write a list of
pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, and short term and long-term
goals to make sure the outcome has the desired effect. Think about the objectives,
alternatives, and risks. You need
to be absolutely clear on exactly what it is you are expecting to
achieve. Review the facts at hand
then absorb them into your subconscious mind. Let these thoughts simmer for a while before going to the
are the possible solutions to the problem or need? Brainstorm with your key staff members
for solutions to the problem or need, unless you are dealing with a
confidential or personal issue.
Note all of the ideas and alternatives on your whiteboard and then
screen out the top solutions. Go
over the pros and cons once again with everyone. Know the cost and risk associated with each alternative, and
then be prepared to decide on what it is you are going to do.
the final decision. You should
now know the direction you are going to take. Commit to your final choice or course of action. Recognize that you cannot know with
100% certainty that your decision is correct. You can’t predict the future, but you can do everything
possible to assess the problems or needs along with the benefits and
risks. So make the decision, don’t
worry about the “what ifs,” and don't look back. Do not prolong or deliberate about the decision any
more. Trust yourself to make the
decision. You will be able to deal
with any consequences appropriately and with confidence because you did
and implement the final decision. Now
that you have decided on what you are going to do, you need to determine
how and when you will make it happen.
Be realistic in your approach.
Can you accomplish the task now?
Do you have the resources?
Is it in your immediate budget?
Are there any time constraints?
Do you have the facilities?
What steps need to be taken?
What systems or processes should be changed in your
organization? Once you have a plan
and know how to implement the solution to the problem or need, it is time
to put the plan into effect. Write
a schedule that includes the start and stop times, and when you expect to
see certain indicators of success.
If you are delegating the task, make sure the person realizes they
are responsible for ensuring the implementation of the plan. Make sure the plan is communicated to
all involved, including your boss and upper management if needed.
and verify whether the problem or need has been solved and/or is
effective. It is a good idea
to set up daily or weekly meetings to make sure all is well. Make sure all is going according to
plan and is on schedule. You can
then move to monthly meetings until you are 100% the problem or need has
been solved. You will find out
very soon how successful you are by checking reports, surveys, comments
made in meetings, and whether there is any tension in the air. Use this opportunity to learn how to
avoid future related problems. If
you are still having problems, or your expectations have not been met,
call in your key players again.
Look at whether the plan was unrealistic, if you had the right
resources, was it communicated enough, and did you prioritized
correctly. If needed, the plan
should be changed. Go through the
steps again until you fully resolve the issue and find the exact solution.