There can be few things more important to leaders than their professional judgment. As Jim Collins clearly demonstrated in his best-selling book, Good to Great, leaders have the power to build spectacular success stories or drag their companies into decline. Which way they go is largely determined by the quality of their decisions.
The challenge for leaders at all levels, is that making decisions, whether relating to strategy, operational crises or people, cannot reliably be boiled down to the ‘science’ of pure reasoning in a process that will provide all the answers. In this rapidly changing and highly complex world, judgement calls are often riddled with far too many intangibles, complexities, unknowns and variables to allow every option to be identified, fully analysed and understood.
Because it is unclear to many people how this uncertainty impacts decisions, opinions as to what constitutes the best decision-making approach are often divided into two camps: the first believing that slow decision-making driven by clear, structured processes is most effective, whilst the other preferring to trust in speed and accuracy of their intuition. Essentially, it’s a question of slow vs. fast. Even those that attempt to use a combination of the two approaches rarely know which to apply in a certain set of circumstances, ultimately allowing their intuition to decide!
This article examines this hidden dilemma, exploring how different combinations of confidence and speed of decision-making impact leaders’ ability to make effective choices. The answer might surprise you…
Read the Article: Slow Deciders Make Better Strategists
I have written previously about the dangerous overconfidence that arises from the belief that “I know” which is highlighted by the article Leading When Uncertainty is Pervasive. The evidence is clear cut that, once we lose our willingness to consider alternative ideas and perspectives, the quality of our decision making, particularly when facing uncertainty, will be badly affected.
This idea points to another dimension that can be overlayed on the analysis presented in this article, to help you to find a better balance between rational and intuitive approaches. This is the level of complexity, ambiguity and pace of change of the environment.
When complexity is low, there will tend be a relatively clear cause-effect relationship between actions and outcomes. This allows a slow, logical, “problem-solving” type of approach to work well, as long as we guard against falling into the “conventional wisdom” trap, assuming that just because a strategy has worked before, it will continue to do so!
At the other end of the spectrum, where uncertainty and pace of change are high, the many variables and potential outcomes make rational analysis much less effective, with the potential to introduce huge errors. Here, intuition and creativity become much more important, because they provide the means of identifying solutions to unknown and previously unexperienced situations. However, keep in mind that this makes it impossible to “know” what the outcome will be, and to plan accordingly.