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Making Quick Decisions

We all need to make decisions in our work environment, which is why understanding decision-making is one of the most important skills for career success. Even when you need to make a decision quickly, the goal is not to make it as quickly as possible. The goal is to come out with a thoughtful, high-quality solution. Authenticity expert, author and speaker Todd Dewett says the best way to produce these solutions is with a purposeful process.

Start by correctly defining the problem and the time constraints for finding a solution. Ask yourself – “what is the real issue?” “Why is this happening?” When you find the answers to these questions, you will be able to deal with the root cause. Defining the problem correctly will improve your ability for dealing with it successfully.

Avoid over-investing in the decision-making process by utilizing the 80/20 rule, Dewett suggests. Eighty percent of your decisions will be less important, recurring, or simple. In these cases, make those decisions by streamlining, outsourcing, delegating or automating them. Twenty percent of your decisions will be more important. These require a thorough decision-making process. In either case, making high-quality decisions quickly is about knowing which types of decisions you’re facing.

Generally, the more important the decision, the more systematic approach should be used. Therefore, assess the urgency of the situation before moving forward. According to Dewett, what we see as urgency is often increased stress due to changes in the assumptions guiding your work. If you believe that acting slowly will mean a loss of business, loss of partners or a diminished reputation in the industry, you’re facing urgency. If this is not the case, move on as planned. If it is, get input from your team when you make urgent decisions.

Gather the essential information before you craft a solution. In terms of accuracy, not all data is created equal. Make sure the data you’re looking at measures what you intend to find out. High-quality decisions are made with the smallest possible amount of data. Look for where you can get the high-quality data you need, if you can get it quickly at a low cost, and what is the minimum amount of data or number of metrics necessary to make a great call.

Generate your options when finding a solution and making decisions. Start with the ideal solution—if time and resources didn’t matter, what would you do? Then work backwards. Who will feel the impact and what would they choose if it were their decision? What are the major constraints? Which option has the best odds of success given the parameters of the situation?

Once you’ve made your decision, you have to make it stick. Be proactive and open with your communication—use multiple channels to deliver a consistent, clear message. Get your team behind you to help support the decision. Provide the tools and training once you’re ready to implement—the easier it is to adopt, the greater likelihood of success.

When you thoughtfully evaluate the problem, the cause and the circumstances surrounding a situation you can make an effective decision. Once you made your decision, implement it to make sure that a thoughtful solution remains an effective solution.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the view of the American Chemical Society.

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