What An Executive Should Know About Making Decisions

What An Executive Should Know About Making Decisions

03 Feb 2022

What an executive should know about making decisions.

By Kieran Perry UK Business Advisor.

Decisions Are Painful

Why are decisions so painful that we sometimes go to ridiculous lengths just to avoid making them? One reason is that a decision. of character, large or small, always involves the risk of being wrong: in business, one may lose his/her job and/or seriously affect the company's future. Another reason is that every decision involves judgments of goals and of values, with risks. Unless, however, a person has the courage to make choices and to take, risks even when the stakes are high, they are not cut out for top-management responsibility.

Frequently, the chief executive awaits the views and reports of subordinates so as to have a crutch to lean upon; someone else to blame. Industrial management firms lend eloquent testimony to this attitude. Often the element of personal popularity enters - into a decision. The "boss" may not wish to alienate his colleagues or stand aloof from them. There are countless examples where the desire to be a good fellow has influenced decisions rightly or wrongly..

But making difficult decisions is what executives are for. They are basically risk takers.

Responsibility for the consequences of far reaching decisions, of course, is a heavy burden for any executive or leader to bear. It is not surprising, therefore, to see top executives, even with many years' experience, displaying a reluctance to come to grips with a problem that calls for a decision-at least some kind of decision. Of all the famous last words in business, undoubtedly the most famous are these: "He couldn't make up his mind." The indecision these words describe is costing our country hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

It has thrown any number of companies. into bankruptcy and cost thousands of executives and workers their jobs.


Need for Urgency

In connection with the timetable factor, there is no doubt that a sense of urgency must be the predominant characteristic of a good executive personality. Clarence B. Randall, president and chairman of Inland Steel for many years, stresses the need for this in his book Freedom's Faith:

"Some very able and conscientious men never make effective executives because their approach to difficult problems is judicial in its quality, rather than dynamic. They concentrate so exclusively on the necessity for doing the best thing that they do nothing. “ 

They lack the sense of urgency required in the fast-moving routine of modern administration. Wise as counsellors, they per form an important function in cautioning their impetuous associates against pitfalls that otherwise might have been overlooked, but left to themselves they will never come up affirmatively with a positive program of action.

"Actually, in most business situations a half-dozen possible plans are proposed, any one of which would work reasonably well; and it is far more important to select one and get on with the job than it is to prolong the debate until the last shred of doubt as to which is the perfect best can be removed."


Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisen however are examples of the men who had the moral courage to make urgent decisions involving enormous consequences, decisions whose success or failure could be attributed to no one else.


Mistakes Will Happen

It is both enlightening and comforting to realize that, at best, the human decision making process can never be the precise computing-machine procedure we would like it to be. Even the most brilliant and reflective of us are bound to make mistakes. This is a hard fact of reality. We have to live with it, and we must learn to accept it.

For one thing, human thinking is rarely if ever totally impersonal, objective, and unbiased. Man is not so much a rational being as he is a rationalizing being. His conscious thought processes are nearly always a means of justifying finding logical and acceptable reasons for his emotionally based needs, drives, and wishes. There is nothing wrong with this. Who is to say that human feelings are good or bad? It's just our nature the way we are put together.

We can rarely judge facts or evidence without some degree of emotional involvement. As a result, we tend (to a certain un controllable extent) to accept data in the light of our personal drives and wishes, giving stronger weight or greater emphasis to factual information that is in accord with our individual feelings, and less weight or importance to equally objective evidence that is not in line with what we are seeking to accomplish.

What your thoughts on these comments?


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