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Improving your organisation’s decision making

Making good decisions is one of the most important habits that we can develop. Whilst most of our daily decisions are minor and made instinctively, many can have serious consequences, not only for us, but also for others.

Even great leaders can make bad decisions. Some of them due to poor timing, bad luck, but mostly due to cognitive and behavioural factors. Risk is an inescapable part of every decision and to make good decisions, leaders and businesses must be able to calculate and manage these risks.

The best and worst times for decision makers

The access to data, advanced analytics and algorithms provide decision makers with powerful new inputs for making decisions. On the other hand, the growing organisational complexity is making it more difficult for clear accountability, as the number of decision makers is rising, and leaders are less able to delegate decision making on to their teams. Increased digital communication via emails and internal knowledge-sharing platforms can often result in lengthy conversations without a clear-decision making authority, which can negatively impact the decision-making process as well as team morale and engagement.

Appointing an executive sponsor who will work with a project lead is essential when it comes to high risk decisions. As complex decisions often have multiple parts, breaking things down into bite-size chunks and addressing these separately before connecting them back up will make the process clearer. Making good decisions also requires having the right facts and data, as well as committing to the outcome of the decision. Data available is not always perfect, therefore leaders have to define what “good enough” looks like and form their decision based on the available information. It’s also important to develop mechanisms to track the success of the decisions and the decision-making process.

Taking ownership

One of the key decision-making challenges is making others take ownership of the decision. It’s the role of the leader to demonstrate and encourage personal ownership, even if the decision wasn’t a good one. It’s inevitable that occasionally bad decisions and mistakes will be made, and whilst no leader can assess every decision made within the business, they can implement strategies that lead to increased confidence in the quality and the pace of those decisions.

Multiple decision-making responsibilities across management levels can create a lot of confusion and frustration. When employees have explicit authority and receive the necessary training to tackle problems on their own, they perform better. For situations where decisions need to be escalated, establishing a clear process and setting a threshold for decisions that require approval can help to mitigate risk and avoid delays.

The quality and the speed of decision making can determine whether a business succeeds or fails. At Acumen we pride ourselves in offering learning solutions that help leaders and their teams to drive success. We design and run programmes that give managers practical tools to help solve real life challenges. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at

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