Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Feb 28 2011   7:10AM GMT

The importance of decision making

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

We all are involved in the decision making process in our day-to-day life, whether in office or at home or elsewhere. We say good about those who can take quick decisions; we call them efficient and effective. One may feel it is futile to discuss about this topic stating that this trait is an innate part of our character and nothing much is possible to be done. But people are trainable, aren’t they?

We see some people taking decisions and moving forward while some others stay put with the current situation due to indecision. Some make bold decisions, take risks and jump far ahead and out of reach of others while some exercise extreme caution and make little progress. Is this a quality that is inherent in a person or is it one that a person develops over time. We can perhaps leave this matter to be debated by philosophers and psychologists, and move ahead and discuss the consequences of poor decision making.

Taking a stand

In our day to day professional life we are confronted with various situations where we are required to take a stand. Our decisions may relate to choosing of a technology solution or a partner, fixing up something that has gone wrong in the datacenter, resolving unreasonable user demands and many such things, but these decision points are critical and essential part of our work. If we keep taking decisions, work moves on and we embark on the next important matter. However, if we are stuck with indecision, matters come to a standstill and it affects our productivity and efficiency.

I am in no way hinting at hurried decision making or taking matters casually. Decisions need to be taken with utmost care; and these need to be well considered and sound. The process may take longer in some cases which require analysis and research but it is important to take a call after a reasonable time has elapsed.

Not all decisions we take may be correct and perfect; we may make mistakes at times and that is human―a corollary would be to say that we would not make a mistake if we do not get into decision making. I am reminded of one of our Prime Ministers, who had adopted a unique approach of postponing decisions hoping that circumstances will take care of the problem on it’s own. To quote Paul Newman, “A man who waits to do something so perfect that nobody would find fault it, he would do nothing.”

Effects of indecision

Consequences of indecision or delayed decision are enormous. First, you lose on time; things that needs to be done today will be done tomorrow or the day after. Any work getting stretched over days leads to inefficiency and higher costs. If work does not proceed as scheduled, there is a sheer waste of resources put on the job. Both our assistants and also the end users, so affected, develop a wrong impression and lose confidence in us. By not acting on time we may lose out an opportunity to make use of a situation or lose out on making a difference to the environment when it was most essential.

On occasions when we stretch the time for making a decision, the situation changes and the decision loses its relevance. Delay in decision could also alter your position from a winner to a loser. I would like to share the example of my son who is a brilliant amateur chess player. He makes well considered moves and often surprises opponents ranked higher than him, but loses a few games due to time constraints. He considers all possibilities to choose the correct move and hence consumes more time. The lesson he has to learn is that if he develops the habit of faster decision making, he could win many more games and the championship. Rather than looking for the perfect move, he can move with faster with quicker decisions and not mind if there is a rare move that is incorrect.

Decisions are taken easily taken by people who have courage; as they proceed ahead, their confidence grows. If they make mistakes they consider these as opportunities to learn and move on.

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