Effective Decision Making Is a Process, Not an Event
Given all the changes taking place in organizations, the role, requirements, and success attributes of highly effective leaders have come under greater scrutiny. While the list of skills has not changed all that much, the items on the list are shifting in terms of impact and importance.
Among the attributes getting more attention are empathy, effective communication (in particular, the ability to listen without judgement or emotion), and effective decision making. We’ll look at the latter here.
As a lifelong sports fan, I find it interesting to listen to the ongoing debate about the appropriate use of data analytics by coaches and managers in making decisions. Fans weighing in on social media and call-in radio talk shows to second guess coaching decisions is nothing new. What is new is the focus of this rage; the reliance on analytics.
Recently, a pitcher was cruising along, well into the seventh inning having surrendered only two hits and no runs while throwing 91 pitches. Nevertheless, here came the manager out of the dugout, looking toward the bullpen and tapping his left forearm, signaling for the relief pitcher to come in. The reliever was unable to hold the lead and the team lost in extra innings.
During the post-game press conference, the manager, quite naturally was asked about the decision to change pitchers when things were going so well. Despite the pitch count, the incumbent showed no signs of slowing down. The manager cited the analytics, specifically data that show a sharp fall off in the quality and effectiveness of this pitcher once he passed the 90-pitch mark. So, notwithstanding observable evidence to the contrary, his night was over. Fans went wild!
What’s going on here?
Two items. First, there is no question that technology allows access to all manner of information and analysis, often in real time. The sheer amount of data can, at times, be overwhelming so much so that the ability to sift and sort the most impactful data points can be a challenge in and of itself. That done, the right data can and should be an important element in the decision-making process. And it is a process!
There is a difference between a bad decision and a good decision with a bad outcome. That difference is found in the efficiency and effectiveness of the decision-making process. An effective process will not ensure that every decision will work out as planned; there are just too many variables. But, over time, a sound process will bring about a far better batting average for desired outcomes.
What are the essential elements of a sound decision-making process? Here are two. Access to reliable, projectable data and the intuition and experience of the people charged with making the decision.
Intuition (sometimes described as “gut feeling”) is often criticized as lacking scientific substance. Too bad. There is more to this than meets the eye. When combined with key data, intuition (which is really the sum of your experiences relative to an issue at a given time) can be a powerful and effective method for making effective decisions.
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Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.