As IT Leaders, we are continually making a wide range of decisions. There are all the normal people & business decisions that leaders need to make. Then there are the technology decisions that need to be made faster and faster. Throw in all the changes in consumer technology changes that are making their way into the business world. IT Leaders makes many decisions each day.
Big decisions, little decisions, simple decisions, complex decisions.
How can we stay on top of them all?
Portions of this article are excerpts from my book, The I.T. Leaders’ Handbook, available in paperback and ebook from fine bookstores everywhere.
Well, we can’t. At least not by ourselves. A first step is pushing the decision as close to the front lines as practical. For example, I have always felt that making sure your team is comfortable making prioritization decisions is a good start. It requires that we set guidelines and principles, but puts the decisions making closer to the day-to-day activity.
Here are three other ways to avoid getting tangled up in too many decisions.
- Sometimes wrong, never indecisive.
A cute little phrase; perhaps an exaggeration. Some decisions we need to make today don’t have a large impact on the future, or we can easily change them down the road. We shouldn’t spend much time to make these decisions. Make the call and go. These types of decisions are also good ones to delegate to the team.
- Defer where possible
We never have all the information we want and need when making some decisions. But we don’t need to make each decision as soon as we identify it. Sometimes we can defer it to the future. If we have two options and we are putting our budget together, we may not need to decide in order to complete our budget. We could pick the bigger number, or pick an average, and go from there. Deciding later will allow us to have more information.
- Make a partial decision
This one is a combination of deciding fast and deferring. If we can decide part of it now and defer part, we may be ahead. For example, pick a vendor, but don’t set the implementation schedule or product options until later.
Some decisions are drivers and some are reactors. Some decisions are tent poles that shape big circus tents. We make other decisions based on the shape of the existing tent. To use another analogy, some decisions are the dog, and some decisions are the tail. The dog always wags the tail, the tail never wags the dog.
Technology decisions are often inadvertent drivers. Changing underlying technology is difficult and can become a driver of other decisions. If we choose not to upgrade our email system, we may not be able to upgrade our call center software.
Spend more time on the “dog” decisions and not so much on the “tail” decisions. Just like we manage our time by focusing on the most important tasks, we should focus most of our decision making on the most important decisions. Don’t get wrapped up in the small decisions.
I shoulda done this. I coulda done that. I wish I woulda done something different. Decide with the best information we have at the time and move on. Additional information may come out that would have changed our decision. So it goes. Learn from decisions that didn’t work. Beating ourselves up for a decision based on information we didn’t or couldn’t have had isn’t helpful.
Second, we will make mistakes. We will make wrong decisions. In post-decision analysis, it will be clearer when we should have made a different decision. Since we don’t have a time machine, we can’t go back and change things. Don’t hide it or get defensive about it. The best thing to do is to own the mistake, learn from it, and be straight with others. It is hard to do at the beginning, but remember that we are setting a model for others. If our team sees us handling a wrong decision with class and integrity, they will learn and do the same.
Getting good at deciding will set a clearer course for us, the team, and the company. Spend time to get the important decisions right. Try to reduce the time spent deciding on the smaller ones. Learn from mistakes and constantly work to get better.