Five reasons decisions are hard to make

Leaders can’t make decisions if they aren’t in touch with the business.

Corporate America often has trouble making decisions. Whether it’s Netflix changing their business model, only to change it again almost immediately, or the A&E cable TV channel coming down hard on Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, only to reverse themselves almost instantly, some companies just can’t make up their minds. The question is, why? Here are five reasons why decisions are so hard to make.

  1. Uncertainty is difficult to live with. Making a decision means that an outcome will result, and predictable outcomes by definition are somewhat uncertain and involve risk. Uncertainty creates anxiety in employees, from the C-suite to the production floor, which in turn, can produce negative behaviors.
  2. No one likes change. While many people assume they like change or will say that change is good, the truth is, most people prefer their routines, whether it’s their bedtime ritual (brush teeth, put on pajamas, read in bed) or their business rituals (the way things have always been done). Change puts people into uncomfortable new environments and situations, forcing them to learn new ways of interacting and doing work.decision
  3. Fear of blame. “Who did this? Whose fault is it? You hear these phrases in the hallways of too many businesses. When employees are frightened by the consequences of failure, they won’t make decisions because they don’t want to be the fall guy or scapegoat. That’s why smart managers encourage experimentation and use failure as a learning tool.
  4. No one realizes there’s a problem. Very often, businesses will cruise along, with management thinking everything is fine, until the ship hits an iceberg. What happened? Why did no one see this coming? Why did we think sales and prices would just go up, up, up forever? A ship’s captain has to be on the lookout for potential problems by analyzing data and seeing what’s ahead. Leaders can’t make decisions if they aren’t in touch with the business.
  5. Everyone knows there’s a problem…and everyone has a solution. Sell more! Spend less! Increase revenue! Cut costs! Oftentimes managers and businesspeople won’t make decisions due to an overload of suggestions and solutions. Or they are stymied by a fear of losing the respect of a segment of their workforce if a decision is made in which that segment has little faith. Like Captain Picard on television’s Star Trek, a good leader asks those below him for alternatives, hears them all, and makes the decision. There is the clear understanding that once a decision is made, the whole team will back it.

In my next blog entry, I’ll talk about some ways that business experts have identified to help businesspeople make the easy and not-so-easy decisions.

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