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Business’ Best Decision-Makers Often Cannot Make Up Their Minds

In today’s fast-paced business world, leaders are regularly called upon and lauded for making important decisions with little time to think, but research indicates this type of management problem solving actually runs counter to becoming the best strategist possible. “One of the biggest decision-making mistakes . . . is our tendency not to waffle but to decide too quickly. When you stop to think of other options . . . you’ll often discover an answer that’s better than what you had been pondering,” according to Inc magazine.

People who consider even one additional possibility to solving a problem fair six times better than other people who consider only a single option. This is typically accomplished by sticking with five strategies that can provide rigor to the decision-making process: (1) Take the time to gather information and possible alternative solutions; (2) embrace a Devil’s advocate approach to challenging the most obvious solution; (3) consider how other leaders solved similar problems; (4) gather and examine data that is available; and (5) solicit advice from trusted sources, such as family and friends. In today’s fast-paced culture, it is easy to get caught up in the momentum however, “knee-jerk decision-making machinery can lead us astray.”

Consider how Sir Terry Leahy, the former chief executive officer of Tesco who transformed the company into the world’s third-largest retailer and is currently a senior advisor to private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, approaches decision-making. “I always avoided rushing a decision. I’m a great procrastinator. I think that’s not a bad idea because you turn things over. Often, [the answer] does become clearer. I never felt the need to make a quick decision,” notes LeadersIn. While leading Tesco from 1997 until 2011, Sir Leahy quadrupled both sales and profits of the retailing giant.

The problem for many of today’s business leaders is they typically do not account for there being an alternative to their snap decisions which are often motivated by underlying unconscious biases. That leads to overconfidence and poor results. According to Mark Chussil, CEO of Advanced Competitive Strategies who leads business war games for clients, there are four styles of strategy decision-making and it is the leaders who exhibit a high degree of confidence while at the same time take a slow-burn approach to strategizing who make the best decisions. “I think the essential lesson for competitive-strategy decision-makers is not so fast, in both senses of the phrase: take your time and don’t be so sure,” says Chussil. “The willingness to apply that mindset is what separates the good decision-makers from the bad,” the Harvard Business Review notes.