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Exploring decision-making in business

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The adage “time is money” endures and sound decision-making saves the former and inversely increases the latter, bringing benefits to organisations and business alike.

BY SIMON TAPFUMANEYI

business records
At one point or another, one has to make decisions. The eternal question though is whether they are the right ones or not. Decision-making is or should not be akin to gambling. It is premised on calculated and systematic steps.

In business, a myriad of processes and procedures invoke sound decision-making, without which organisations crumble, companies flounder and entities wilt. If the afore-mentioned are devoid of robust and rigorous decision-making processes, then at best their success rates are materially, if not monumentally diminished.

The process is, therefore, unilaterally central to the operations of business and should be given commensurate attention and effort. It is apt to mention that the process by which we come to decisions is often universal, with minor modifications.

The initial step is to set the objectives. There has to be binding clarity on what you want to achieve. Simplicity, it has to be said, will not obscure your intentions and aims. For those working in teams which, is more often than not, ease of comprehension is facilitated. It is impossible to make decisions when one is not clear on objectives or purpose. This too mitigates the chances of misdirection.

The second stage is to define the challenge. It is important to spell out the issues to be addressed. To attain any objective, certain incremental steps have to be taken. The purpose is thus broken down to simpler issues which are specific and easier to pin-point and address. This definition of the challenge should be done in the context of the broader objectives. One does not want to be guilty of barking the wrong tree.

Thirdly, one collects relevant data pertaining to the specific challenge. This is especially vital as information is the basis of sound and substantive decision-making. The quality of this information pre-determines the quality of decision there from. Suffice is to say, information has to be relevant, reliable, up-to-date, verified or verifiable and comprehensive.

In computers, if you feed garbage into the computer, you will also get garbage out. For all its capabilities, the computer only works on the data given, and if the input is faulty and misleading so too will the output be. This is applicable to decision-making where the wrong information entails wrong decisions.

Having analysed the data, it is thus possible to come up with options or alternatives to deal with the challenge. It is imperative to come up with a variety of options to address the challenge or issue. This can be done at individual, departmental or corporate level. Brainstorming sessions potentially yield sound and substantive results.

From the available possibilities, select the best option. Be cognisant that no solution is perfect and there are usually drawbacks with any given solution. However, select the best possible solution. One which is as pragmatic as it is efficacious (producing the desired results).

Implementation is the next phase. Issues have to be operationally defined and put into practice. This is, tragically, the Achilles heel for most decision-making processes. It defeats the entire purpose of the exercise, if decisions made not are implemented or executed. Failure to put into practice agreed issues, polices, strategies, resolutions and decisions has the same effect as if no decision was made. In my estimation, implementation or execution merits an entire topic in subsequent instalments and which I will address.

Typically, we need to review progress or lack thereof. The chief purpose of this process is to ascertain the intended results. It often happens that things do not always work the way we want them to, for a variety of reasons. Competences, time, operating environments changes, under estimations or over estimations of one factor or another are some of the factors which might affect projections.

Thus, dictates on the ground might invite modification. There is usually need to effect changes consistent with practicalities. In short, align execution with situation, that is, the content of the former with the dictates of the latter.
Go on to re-implement after making the changes with even greater verve and vitality for the envisaged outcomes.
All the steps in this decisionmaking model can be slated as follows:

l set objectives
l identify challenge
l gather information
l draw options
l select the best
l implement
l review
l modify
l re-implement.

These are incremental and progressive steps, where the next stage builds on the previous one. It pays in the end to commit these to memory in the beginning. It has to be expressly slated that there are alternative approaches to decision-making and it is my considered opinion the genius of this model lies in its simplicity and efficacy.

The above steps are simple and logical and, therefore, easy to remember and practice. No higher learning required!
There are issues surrounding the entire decision-making process we need to look at, do more justice to this invaluable process.
One of which is the disposition of those involved. One has to be decisive and confident. Make the decision, by all means, and stick to it except where there are glaring pointers to a re-think. The lay of the land is not made for the weak and timid, those devoid of confidence.

A former chief executive of Heinz, O Reily, once said “If you get six out of ten of the decisions you have to make as a leader, then you are doing fine . . . as long as the other four are not of a terminal nature”

No one gets it right all the time. Yet we need to summon all at our disposal to get the best possible results. Whatever you do, do not vacillate/ oscillate between different positions. This is inimical to the conduct of business. It is not that most challenges faced in business are intractable, rather,it is often our orientation which usually cruelly exposes our shortcomings.

Decisions have to be timeously made. Procrastination, it is said, is the thief of time and it can be the thief of the whole project or business. When we fail to address issues expeditiously, we exacerbate damage, miss opportunities and compound the very challenges we intend to address.

Decisions are not made fortuitously, for our actions have to be planned, deliberate, systematic and methodical. In the rarest of the cases, when issues and information is conflicting, incongruent, or obscure or for some reason hopelessly inadequate or overwhelming, when a position has to be taken promptly, then go by your hunch or gut feeling.
I have had the opportunity to witness individuals going by a hunch and being proved right. Remember, in most of these instances circumstances compelled them to.
In today’s world, where one is almost overwhelmed with amounts of information, it pays to have an analytical mind and an eye for detail. For, we can have all the information at our disposal yet entirely miss the mark. The adage, the devil is in the detail is applicable.

It is detail which always sways us to the right decision. For what it’s worth, have a practical and proven decision-making process, one which takes us closer to objective accomplishment. One cannot gamble one’s project or business away. In business, it is the systematic and pragmatic that enjoys objective attainment, individually or collectively.

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