Effective Decisions

People avoid making decisions for many reasons, but mostly people avoid decisions to avoid the responsibility for the decision.

There are four key components to an effective decision. A decision should solve a problem in a clear, sound, and timely manner. These components are best viewed from the perspective of the other people who are impacted by the decision, either because it affects them or because they have to implement the decision.

Making a decision that doesn't solve a problem, isn't only ineffective, but it's also super annoying to subordinates or stakeholders who have a problem. It is a great way to try to appear busy to disengaged managers. That is, a lazy product manager can go to their regular one-on-one with their manager and assert that they've made a decision about a feature but not relay that the feature is not needed by anyone.

A clear decision doesn't mean that it's simple, but it should be explainable; it should answer 'why'. A decision without and explanation is hard to implement. You can't really fully specify how a decision is implemented, because it's too time consuming to think through and document every eventuality. There will always be downstream decisions to be made by colleagues or subordinates. But if they don't understand the principal decision, it will be challenging for them to ensure that their subordinate decisions align, and any misalignment in subordinate decisions will only reduce the effectiveness of the lead decision.

Furthering that point, the decision should be sound. The decision should be founded on data, and where ever possible, backed up by practice. Going with your gut, may be a good practice on a multiple choice test, but it's shaky as a decision methodology, mostly because it's inexplicable. Start with data and what's known. Build support for the decision with knowledge of best practices. After that, apply judgement with reason.

All this must be timely. If it's not timely, it won't solve a problem. Additionally, if circumstances render your decision moot, the only thing to clearly explain will be why the decision wasn't made when it could have made a difference. The world will always move forward, all pending decisions are subject to expiration. Furthermore, decisions that haven't been made will block downstream decisions, which generally means that someone will be idle pending the decision.

The point of a decision is to move towards a goal. It's effective when it enables the goal and ineffective otherwise. This past Memorial Day weekend, I started watching "Band of Brothers" again, and there was a quote that stuck with me, “He wasn’t a bad leader because he made bad decisions.  He was a bad leader because he made no decisions.”

Be a leader, make clear, sound and timely decisions.