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Improving decision making

Waffling in Decision Making Hurts Productivity

This is a guest article by Stephanie Bickel of Speak by Design

Many of us are feeling a loss of productivity right now. Maybe you have less to do. Maybe you have more work than you have ever had. Or, your personal life is placing limitations on what you can get done.

One of the best ways to feel more productive is to make decisions faster.

Don’t waffle! When you waffle, you take away the ability to move onto the next task.

One of the reasons it is difficult to make decisions quickly is that we can let open questions linger. It’s these unanswered questions or the indecision that stop us from moving forward.

  1. Should I speak to my leader about “x”?
  2. Should we update our materials or is it good enough?
  3. How should I respond to that email?
  4. What is more important: A or B?
  5. Will I exercise today?

These open questions that live in the background of your mind is like having 30 open browsers. They are slowing down your mental machine and ability to think clearly. Whenever you have a question in mind, answer it as directly as possible.

Yes. No. Hold off for now.

Try to use “maybe” sparingly.

Those you work with will appreciate your decisiveness more than ever right now. You increase others’ productivity when you voice decisions clearly and without delay. Silence when a team member is waiting on your decision can be maddening. As an example, imagine if you were waiting to hear from leadership about your promotion that should have been made last week, and leadership has been quiet.

You may think you do not have enough information to make the decision. If that is the case, how about a response like this?

To your team:

“We do not have enough information to decide “X” this minute, what can we lean on in terms of data, policy, expert experience, and our intuition?”

To your organization:

“We assure you that we are making every effort to solve “X”. We need to investigate options further and will update you early next week with our progress.”

In an ideal world, we would have the perfect information for making a decision. Our opinions would be supported by data, documented policies and procedures from peer organizations, expert experience, and our gut.

It is impossible to have all of that information at our fingertips for every decision. We have to make split-second decisions, too. When that is the case, try to get support from at least two of these four areas (data, policy, experience, and intuition).

When you have complex decisions to make, here’s how you can think through the process.

1. Identify the Decision

Keep it simple. What question needs to be answered? or What is the problem that needs to be solved?

2. Gather Information

Collect information in each of these four areas - data, policy, experience, and intuition.

3. Play Devil’s Advocate

What if you did nothing? Is there another solution that generates better results? Is there an option that can be implemented faster or that costs less with similar outcomes? Can you build upon the solution to make it even better?

4. Share your decision

Voice your commitment. Say what the change is and why it’s important. What problem does it solve? What is the opportunity?

5. Motivate action

Excite people to action. Articulate what this decision means specifically for them. How does it impact their day-to-day? Appeal to each person’s motivations and values. Clearly communicate a roadmap for next steps. Where do they start and what actions do they need to take?

We are all hungry to be productive right now. Role model how you want others to make decisions. Encourage your team members to be more decisive.

Decisions breed action.

Decisiveness helps you be clear and concise in your communication and…

helps you get to the next task on your to-do list faster!

Author Bio

Stephanie is the Founder and CEO of Speak by Design.  She created the Lead by Design methodology for all Speak by Design programming.  She recently launched Speak by Design University to help sustain the impact from their programs. Speak by Design has deep expertise launching new CEOs, coaching TED talks, preparing management team presentations to investors, and helping Sales professionals win new business.  

Their signature courses include: Presence, Presenting with Impact, Storylining, High Impact Meetings, 360 Leadership Communication, Handling Difficult Situations, and Trusted Advisor Training. Speak by Design help people become consistently compelling forces for their organizations.

Want to learn more about making decisions faster?

See courses available from Stephanie and the rest of the Speak by Design Team and get in touch to find out how they can help you reach your goals!

Learn more

Last updated: 22 May 2020

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