As an IT leader, you make decisions that impact other people, often significantly. The decisions you make will affect the organization everywhere on the continuum, from tactical to strategic.
Some decisions require lots of thought and analysis. Some require less. How do you know?
Making decisions as the IT Leader can be complicated and we often make it harder than it needs to be. Keep the below decision attributes in mind and you spend the right amount of time on the right decisions.
Scope covers the people and technology as well as the timeframe of the decision. As a leader, you need to spend most of your time on the long-term decisions that have the largest affects on people and technology. You will only have the capacity to work on one (maybe two) of these at a time. Conversely, small scope problems are often candidates for delegation to future leaders on your team.
Choose your decisions point to be as few as possible. While larger decisions have big implications, not all of those implications should be decision points. Some of them are the consequences of the decisions. If you can tease apart the decisions points and the consequences, you can make better decisions.
Don’t overlook the downstream implications of a decision. Do the options increase flexibility in the future, or decrease it? Which option makes the organization more secure, or faster, or future-proof?
Some decisions can be reversed down the road if conditions change. If a decision is easily reversed, you can make it easier and faster. Are some options easier to reverse than others?
Reversing decisions can be a challenge if your pride is heavily involved. If the situation, or the information available to you changes, it’s ok to change a decision you made in the past.
As an IT Leader, you should know risk management. Making decisions carries risk. What is the severity of a wrong decision? What is the likelihood of a slow decision? How can you detect if a decision is wrong?
In addition, each option will have its own set of risks. Do you need to do a formal risk assessment or can you get by with an informal one?
Always know the timeframe for making a decision. If everything else is the same, faster decisions are better than slower ones. But everything usually isn’t the same. Knowing that you will often not have enough information you want to have, will you make the decision anyway, or will you freeze and not make a decision? Do you spend more time trying to gather more information?
Implementing a decision often determines the success or failure of the decision. Once you have spent any time in the IT world, you will experience good decisions implemented badly. The classic case is system selection. You put all this effort into selecting a new software system and then make a mess of the implementation. In my experience, a good decision implemented well may be better than the best decision implemented poorly.
Portions of this post have been excerpted from my book: The I.T. Leader’s First Days, Starting your new job right.