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close this bookHundred Tips for a Better Management (Aga Khan Foundation, 1993, 70 p.)
close this folderDecision-making I
View the document(introduction...)
View the document33. Separate the managers from the leaders30
View the document34. Back up your decision-making with planning31
View the document35. Don't let decision-making bring you down32
View the document36. Some suggestions on decision-making:
View the document37. Be decisive! Take action. A decisive person will almost always prevail only because almost everyone else is indecisive33
View the document38. Don't put too much reliance on data. If a quantitative analysis conflicts with common sense, abandon the data34
View the document39. Consensus seeking is a time-wasting, levelling influence that impedes distinctive performance. Avoid it35
View the document40. Don't analyse a problem to death. Avoid ''paralysis by analysis''36


Executives spend too much time analyzing and too little time acting. Philip Smith, Chairman, General Foods

33. Separate the managers from the leaders30

It is easy to get hung up by principles, but don't. Below are some basic tips for putting management principles into practice.

1. Be a coach as well as enforcer.
2. Master technical skills that are needed for your position, like using data effectively.
3. Don't involve too many people too soon.

Design a two-year strategy that answers questions like these:

  • In which parts of the organisation should change begin?

  • Which potential projects have the best chance of success?

  • What financial and technical resources will be needed to sustain education, training, and other projects?

  • Who will provide technical assistance to managers, supervisors, staff, and volunteers?

  • Who will co-ordinate logistics?

  • What systems must be developed to distribute resources, maintain publications and reports, and handle a hundred more details?

4. Identify resource people within the organisation early on.

Recruit technical advisors, like senior statisticians and training specialists, from the outside until the organisation has enough expertise.

5. Ask questions to better understand your workers: What do employees like/dislike about their jobs? Do they feel trusted/valued? The key is in getting honest answers.

6. Ensure that workers understand their roles and where they fit into the larger context; how their work is influenced by others who precede them and how it influences those who follow.

34. Back up your decision-making with planning31

  • You can't execute your decision until you plan it. Below are some tips to help you organise your thoughts.

  • Analyse the situation: What are the conditions of the area that you are making a decision for? What creates the need for decision?

  • Determine your objective: Why are you making this decision? What do you hope to gain?

  • Quantify expected results: What new conditions would exist by making the decision? Are they needed? To evaluate the quality of your decision you need a quantified target, like how to increase the collection of accurate data by 25%.

  • Identify available information: The quality of a decision is determined by the kind of information that supports it. What information can you get from employees, competitors, experts, files, and publications?

  • Identify other resources: If your decision requires money, talent, time, equipment, or materials, how much of each is available? Where will you look for these resources? By when?

  • Establish requirements: What are the conditions that must be met by the decision?

  • Determine and rate desirable features: These are what you want as opposed to what you need. Which are the most desirable?

  • Have alternatives: What are all the possible choices available to you? Think of as many as possible.

  • Rate alternatives: Compare the alternatives that meet your decision requirements. Number them in order of importance.

  • Pre-test your first choice: You can do this quickly and simply by anticipating all outcomes or, instead, implement your decision on a sample of people who are affected by the choice.

  • Make a final decision: If your pre-test gives you good results, implement it. If not, choose the next alternative from your list until you find one you like.

35. Don't let decision-making bring you down32

If you only have a hammer, you think every problem is a nail. endy Leebov, Ed.D.

There are creative tools to help individuals and teams make decisions without having agonising, endless debates.

Some common decision-making exercises include:

  • Brainstorming lets your mind go to think of as many ideas as you can as fast as you can. Record as many as possible in case you forget them. Criticism is not allowed because it slows down the flow of ideas.
  • Flowcharts are pictures of processes that show every step of the process and how steps relate to one another. This helps to see the situation to determine exactly where change is needed.
  • Tree diagrams look like trees with several branches. They show the breakdown of large questions, goals or problems. This exercise helps you move from the general to the specific in an organised way. An easy way to get started is to ask, "why" at every branch.

36. Some suggestions on decision-making:

  • Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in. (Napoleon Bonaparte)

  • Eliminate alternatives based on the facts available, make a choice and cope with the consequences. Don't be afraid to ignore rules and rely on your underlying values (Anonymous)

  • Low-level decisions are often guided by numerous rules.

  • Managers are paid to make decisions where the rules aren't clear. (adapted from Richard Sloma, No-Nonsense Management)

  • Nothing creates more self-respect among employees than being included in the process of decision-making (Judith Barrdwick, University of California, San Diego)

  • Decision-making isn't a matter of arriving at a right or a wrong answer, it's a matter of selecting the most effective course of action from among less effective courses of action. (Philip Marvin, Developing Decisions for Action)

37. Be decisive! Take action. A decisive person will almost always prevail only because almost everyone else is indecisive33

Decisiveness is a willingness to act. If you are well prepared and have a clear grasp of the issue, the options, and the consequences, then act. Take a decision. Do not wait for someone else to do so. You may wait a long time. Most people do not have the self-confidence, the assertiveness, or the information to take a decision. They are probably waiting for you to act.

38. Don't put too much reliance on data. If a quantitative analysis conflicts with common sense, abandon the data34

Numbers can be very useful in analysis and decision-making. But some things cannot be measured precisely.

Be careful not to put too much weight on these kinds of numbers, especially if they are projections. Predicting the future is a risky business.

Gather your best people together so that the collective knowledge, experience and judgement of the group is polled.

Reliance on one individual's judgement, especially for subjective decisions, is always inferior to reliance on an informed group's judgement.

39. Consensus seeking is a time-wasting, levelling influence that impedes distinctive performance. Avoid it35

The following may seem to be a sacrilegious quote, but the author means it, and makes a strong argument for teamwork, but against consensus.

"I believe consensus is one of the great bogus concepts of our day. It is incredibly time-consuming to achieve, so much so that it is thoroughly impractical; and when it is achieved, it seems far more likely that what has been accomplished is a stroking of pampered egos rather than selecting a distinctive course of action."

"Sometimes a decision-making group will have consensus or virtual unanimity on an issue. This occurs when decisions almost make themselves and hardly any discussion is needed. Most times, however, when knotty issues are presented, each person sitting around the table has a point of view and a stake in events. No matter how sincere you are about the, good of the order, in fact, because of your sincerity, you will often have strong beliefs in opposition to one or more of your associates. To achieve consensus in a group like this is to have found a common denominator so low that nobody cares about what gets decided.

The original issue that divided people has in effect been swept under the rug, and will probably surface again."

"What a team needs to be taught is the joy and camaraderie of sharing in the decision-reaching process. And to enter into that sharing at all times. As a team leader, teach this and you'll really have something authentic! This is buy-in that counts."

"When you make a decision apart from your team that your team helped you make, explain that decision to them before announcing it."

"If this requires calling a special meeting, by all means call it. It need last only a few minutes. Attendees may not even need to be seated."

40. Don't analyse a problem to death. Avoid ''paralysis by analysis''36

It is important to be well-prepared, but it is cowardice to postpone a decision until another unnecessary study is completed.

Managers have to realise that all decisions involve some degree of risk. That's what managers get paid for, to take the risk and make a decision. If you have all the information you are likely to get, then you need to act upon it. Don' t waste time and money on "further analysis."