You’re probably faced with important decisions daily. Such is the life of a vision master leading(the CEO or Founder) a growing company.
But let me ask you this . . .
How many do you make and commit to fulfilling on every day?
How many do you table, perhaps resolving to decide tomorrow, or get advice from your board, or wait until you have more information?
It turns out that making decisions daily, important decisions play a major role in the growth potential of your company. But making decisions is only the beginning. It’s the ongoing commitment to those decisions that make the difference.
I was inspired to write this blog after reading about Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (world’s wealthiest man at this time) habit of making three important decisions every day. It’s not the number of decisions that matter, it’s the fact that he’s committed to making decisions, which means to continue driving the company forward. How exactly does he make those decisions, how much time does he spend on each, how does he demonstrate his commitment to each decision afterward, are all questions he doesn’t answer. I’ll try here.
But first, let’s take a literary tour of wisdom about the value of decision-making. Here are some quotes to ponder . . .
“Successful people make decisions quickly and change them slowly” — Napoleon Hill
“Your life changes as soon as you make a new, congruent and committed decision” — Tony Robbins
“It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you are on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions.” —Jim Rohn
“Concision in style, precision in thought, decision in life.” — Victor Hugo
“Some of our important choices have a timeline. If we delay a decision, the opportunity is gone forever. Sometimes our doubts keep us from making a choice that involves change. Thus an opportunity may be missed.” — James E. Faust
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” — Theodore Roosevelt
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” — Amelia Earhart
What these commentators share in common is the principle that life requires action and action requires decision-making. Now, you may be thinking that there’s nothing new in this. Obviously, as a business leader, you understand the value and necessity of decision-making, as well as the old adage made famous by Harry Truman that once you make a decision, “the buck stops here,” on your desk.
All well and good.
But have you ever thought about what it really means to make a decision?
Clearly, you make innumerable decisions every day, from what socks to wear, to what to order for lunch, to how to deal with an under-performing employee, an unhappy trade partner, or an impatient investor.
What’s interesting in all of this is how, precisely, do you go about that decision-making and how committed are you to the decisions you make?
A decision is worth nothing, in fact, is not really a decision at all, without the willingness and the commitment to make the sacrifices and carry out the disciplines necessary to see it through. This I believe is the full meaning of Napoleon Hill’s observation that successful people make decisions quickly and change them slowly. For a decision made slowly is clearly a sign of indecision, excessive analysis or lack of trust in one’s own decision-making ability or one’s own ability to carry out decisions. And a decision changed quickly, or frequently, indicates that there has not been a complete commitment to make the necessary sacrifices and devote the necessary disciplines to carry out that decision.
Imagine a leader who takes a long time to make decisions, with excessive due diligence and care, but who changes them quickly as soon as there is evidence that the decision was wrong or that situations have changed. This is a person full of self-doubt, one who relies mainly on external factors to determine what is the best decision, rather than the internal factors of full commitment, sacrifice, and discipline.
This is not to say that external factors are unimportant — the evidence is key in making the right decisions — but it doesn’t take long to acquire and assess the key evidence needed. 80% of the time spent in hesitant decision making is not spent in acquiring and assessing key facts, but in summoning the will to carry out the decision and in justifying a decision already made. If you eliminate the time spent in summoning the will to act (through the habit of acting quickly) and if you eliminate the time spent justifying a decision already made, your decision-making cycle will be 1/5 as long and just as effective.
Consider that many of the decisions you’re faced with require you to allocate precious resources in one way or another. Clearly, you wouldn’t be wise to act rashly under such circumstances. Yet, holding those resources in reserve, failing to deploy them effectively and decisively can lead to a slow and agonizing death as you’re outpaced by competitors, miss meeting market changes or fail to achieve positive cash flow before running out of money.
Decisiveness is required. There’s no way around that in business. Yet, rash behavior, including frequent changes of course, aren’t generally the right solution either. So, what do you do?
I strongly believe that developing and following a decision-making process is the solution. Clearly different kinds of decisions require different lengths of decision-making cycles. Major business decisions can take months. Decisions in an air battle dog-fight take seconds. Both are equally life-and-death, yet the time frames are different.
But it’s the process that matters and here’s the rub . . .
That process should be similar whether you’re in an aerial dog fight or a long, drawn-out acquisition or IPO endeavor.
In a dog fight, pilots use the OODA decision-making cycle continuously: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.
The OODA loop is the cycle of observe–orient–decide–act, developed by military strategist and U.S. Air Force Colonel John Boyd. Boyd applied the concept to the combat operations process, often at the operational level during military campaigns. It is now also often applied to commercial operations and learning processes. The approach explains how agility can overcome raw power in dealing with both human and business opponents. An opponent is not necessarily a competitor; the market itself can be considered an “opponent” — i.e. a problem to solve.
I suggest you read everything you can find on the OODA loop and decision-making in general. In the next post in this series, I’ll walk you through the OODA Loop as a tool for creating a decision-making process you can use for both short and long-term decision-making.
Are you a decisive leader? How do you know? Collective wisdom regards resolute decision-making as a key to success in business and in life. Leaders such as Jeff Bezos resolve to make several key decisions daily and commit to following through on them. Effective follow-through requires a process for decision-making. In successful companies, decision-making is a process involving both a visionary leader and an execution master who can implement them day to day. The OODA process has been used by military and business leaders for some time and could be a valuable tool for you to master to become an effective decision-maker.