How to Speed Up a Slow Decision-Making Process
A reader of this morning’s post asks, “How do you suggest dealing with an organizational culture that resists making decisions?”
Don’t pressure people to make decisions before they’re ready. They tend to dig in rather than speed up.
Adopt a decision-making plan:
- Determine on a scale of 1 – 10 how important the decision is. “1” – the decision has little impact. 10 – if you get the decision wrong, the barn will burn down. Commit to taking more time with decisions that rank higher and less time with decisions that rank lower.
- Generate a list of options. Generate a long list. Don’t do research. Just create options.
- By consensus, choose the top three options from the list.
- Assign people to research one of the options. (Stay open to the idea that research might reveal another option.)
- Set a deadline. For example, next week we’ll discuss our options.
- Meet to discuss the pros and cons of each option. If a viable alternative was uncovered during the research stage, replace one of the three options with the alternative. Limit the number of options to three.
- After discussing alternatives, ask everyone to vote on their preferred option.
- Make the decision if you see consensus. Ask, “What prevents us from making the decision right now?”
- If you don’t see consensus, send everyone away for one week of research on the three options on the table.
- Reconvene to make the decision.
Evaluate the decision-making process, after making a decision. Ask, “How might we make our decision-making process more efficient?”
Evaluate and improve the way you make decisions after making a decision.
What suggestions do you have for speeding up a culture of slow-decisions?
Shorten the timeline:
You might talk to a few power-players on the team. Say what you see. Don’t judge it. “Most of our decisions take about 60 days or 90 days to make.”
Get agreement on how long typical decisions take. After you agree, ask, “What happens in your thinking if we cut that time in half for the next decision we make?”
Speak to values:
Be aware that others might not value speedy decision-making. If this is the case, speak to other values. For example, “I know we value meeting customer expectations. I wonder how speeding up our decision-making process might better serve our customers?”
“I know we value being relevant to our constituent. I wonder if we might be even more relevant if we cut our decision-making time by 25%?”
Dan, I think one of the issues in a slow decision-making process is in deciding who needs to be involved in the decision. Often decisions that can be made lower in the hierarchy get kicked upstairs. Another issue is team decision making when the better choice is for a single individual (or just a couple) to choose. Thanks always for your posts – thought provoking.
So glad you added your insights, Susan. Be sure the people at the table have some skin in the game. 🙂
Very timely article. I work for a small non-profit and most of the board members and staff are volunteers so it’s always hard to get them to make any meaningful decisions. We’ve got a few key decisions to make at a board meeting on Saturday and this came just in time! Thanks!
Thanks for serving, Mike. The business world could learn a lot from folks like you. Happy decision-making!
Culture of slow decision making is common symptoms of weak organisation. And it happens because people are fearful about the consequences of the decisions if it fails. Their worries could be obvious as consequences has repercussion in the system. In fact that is the bottlenecks that hinders decision making process. So, management should address it. Secondly, even if you push people to make decision, they will not, because they are incompetent. So, your suggestion is perfectly alright, Send them for a week to prepare for a decision.
People also do not take decisions when it become routine and nothing comes out of it. You have rightly suggested for decision evaluation. And the most important is reward connected with decision making. When cultures retards decision making, link reward to decision makings. You will witness quick results.
I would be careful, just because someone doesn’t make a decision doesn’t necessarily mean they are incompetent, may mean they haven’t gotten a clear single from higherups that what they offer is going to matter!
I work for the nonprofit (TregoED) whose mission is to help education leaders make and implement great decisions. The key is to use a proven step-by-step process that allows for meaningful stakeholder involvement and starts with the end in mind. What exactly do you need in the decision? Having people who can facilitate decision making using a framework can take the emotionality and paralysis out of tough decision making. Our decision-making processes are based on the processes developed by Kepner-Tregoe and used by Fortune 500 companies worldwide. Great decision making is a skill that can and should be learned by all.