The 5 Skills You Need to Get Ahead: Decision-Making (5 of 6)

May 3, 2006

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To make an important decision, you must:

ANSWER: (D) Do all of the above (see page 1), depending on the decision and when it needs to be made, how significant it is, etc.

ne of the worst things that I see in the FM/PM world is indecisiveness,” says Stormy Friday, founder and president, The Friday Group, Annapolis, MD. “There’s an old saying: ‘Not to decide is to decide.’ I see that too often. Ultimately, when you don’t make a decision, you can’t move forward with your strategic goals or your operational/tactical goals. You’ll find it easier and easier to say, ‘I’m just not going to decide on that.’ The more often you don’t make a decision, the more ineffective you become.”

But, as we all know, decision-making can be tough. What’s the first thing you should do to get in some practice? Make a hard decision quickly: It could be a workforce decision, a decision about a service you’re currently unable to deliver to a customer, or a decision about a piece of equipment. “It’s often better to make a bad decision - and learn from that decision - than to not make a decision,” says Friday.

She explains that most people have three “piles” in their minds: decisions they don’t mind making, decisions that are tough to make but can be done, and hard decisions they don’t want to make (and, as a result, push off to the side). “Start with the hard decisions first - particularly in the morning when you have more energy,” she recommends.

  1. Identify the reason for this decision. Is there a problem that needs to be solved? If so, why should it be solved?
  2. Devise a list of potential solutions.
  3. Evaluate each solution in terms of its effects; establish pros and cons for each alternative.
  4. Settle on the best option.
  5. Swiftly turn your decision into specific action steps and execute.
  6. Assess the outcome of your decision. What lessons were learned? (This is a vital step for the development of decision-making skills.)

Friday warns: “Don’t fall into ‘analysis paralysis.’ You can study something to death and probably won’t make a better decision as a result.” Allow yourself a certain amount of time to gather information, perform investigation, weigh pros and cons - and, at the end of your designated time, make a decision and stick to it.

In addition to following the steps listed above, there are several ways to go about making a decision. “The process can involve one or many individuals, may range in style from adversarial to collaborative, and [vary] in time from ‘on the fly’ to an [extended] period of time,” says Kathleen McKenna-Harmon, an Institute of Real Estate Management instructor based in Minnetonka, MN. Making a choice can be as basic as flipping a coin or as complex as using a decision-making tree (a diagram that represents possible decisions, the main external/other events that introduce uncertainty, and possible outcomes of those decisions and events) or weighted factor comparison techniques (which quantify and distill decisions down to a single set of numbers, essentially ranking the alternatives).

Many facilities professionals have bad decision-making habits - taking a decision that needs to be made immediately into a meeting and asking for input, for example. If people are given the opportunity to make their opinions known, they often assume the decision will reflect their input. If you already have some solutions in mind and plan to make the decision yourself (or with a smaller group of people), don’t get everyone involved. Otherwise, when the decision is announced, colleagues may be astonished (and hurt) when they discover that their ideas weren’t chosen as the solution. This can cause fury, doubt, and mistrust in the workplace. If you don’t plan to take other opinions seriously and weigh them carefully, your team members may be reluctant to participate in future decision-making meetings if they think their opinions won’t be considered. But - just because you may not involve everyone in the decision doesn’t mean that you should keep colleagues in the dark about what’s happening. Everyone will profit if you keep teammates in the know about the situation requiring a decision and who will ultimately be making the call. “Spending too much time and involving everyone in simple decisions wastes time and energy; involving no one in important decisions that involve major change and workforce cooperation can be equally disastrous,” says McKenna-Harmon.

She also suggests that facilities professionals study those within their own firms who employ effective decision-making techniques. Sit down with them, talk about how they approach a tough decision vs. an easy decision, and see if you can pick up on some tips.

“Quality decision-making skills represent leadership,” Friday emphasizes. “They set a decisive tone, tell people that you are not afraid to take a stand, and show that you do things in a timely fashion.” If your coworkers think you’re indecisive, that reputation will stick - and they’ll eventually stop coming to you for solutions.

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