Avoid Decision-Making Mistakes – Start A Decision Log
Do you see any of these decision-making problems at your work?
- Decisions take too long.
- Decisions don’t involve the right people.
- Decisions are not data-driven.
- Decisions are not communicated consistently.
- Decision execution fails from poor follow-through.
If so, you not alone. Decision-making mistakes and inefficiencies happen again and again in business, damaging 20% of manager performance, and acting like a boat anchor on about 50% of employee engagement.
Decision Making Is A Keystone Habit
There’s a lot of effective advice for leaders to help turn this situation around. But one executive tip has greater impact than all the others:
Start a Shared Decision Log. Record every business decision you make, and openly share that record with every person affected by the decision.
Introducing the simple habit of logging and sharing decisions is transformational. I know, because I’ve seen it happen. Companies become more decisive. The right people are involved. Decision making becomes more data-driven. Decisions are communicated consistently. Execution and follow-through improves, and teams react faster when decisions don’t go as expected. Transparency helps trust grow. Work is more meaningful and less stressful.
Decision-making habits are keystone habits; they unlock change far beyond just you and your team. Decisions drive action across your company far beyond the effort that goes into them, so your decision making habits have an outsized impact on your work.
Yeah, Maybe, But…
I know, it sounds too simple, but it works. Those doubts in your head? I’ve been there too.
“I really don’t understand what you mean by recording a decision.” It’s as simple as it sounds. Recording a decision involves spending 2 to 3 minutes to quickly write down these five points and then share the resulting decision log with everyone affected:
1. What the decision is about.
2. The choice you made.
3. Any other alternatives you considered
4. The key reasons for your decision, including impacts on specific business goals.
5. Anyone else involved in the decision.
“You can’t mean every decision, that’s impossible!” You’re right, that would be impossible! But I’m talking about every business decision you make, not all the inconsequential decisions we make each day. As a simple rule of thumb, record every business decision that takes more than a few minutes of conversation with other people. A good metric is that you should be logging at least 2 decisions per week per manager, and 3 per executive. So if you have 3 managers and 1 executive on your team, you should be logging at least 9 decisions per week. Recording that few decisions is easier to do than you think. In fact, once you do it for a few weeks, you’ll realize how often your decisions used to slip through the cracks, and it will be hard to imagine working any other way.
“This sounds like unnecessary extra work. Our current meeting notes and project trackers are good enough.” They are good, but not good enough. As a thought experiment, imagine you get three emails in a row. One says “Meeting Notes.” The next says “Project Update.” The last says “We Made A Decision.” Which one are you going to read first? Now imagine three bulletin boards. One has last week’s meeting notes. A second has last week’s completed tasks. The third has last week’s decisions. Which one will draw your eye? Let your answer to those questions be your guide. Decisions matter and people care about them. Record your decisions and share your decision log.
“All that really matters is to make decisions quickly and move on.” Making decisions and moving quickly is absolutely critical. The faster you act, the faster you learn the results of your decisions. But most of us have the misconception that decisions happen in the moment we make our choice. That is wrong. Decisions happen when we make a choice and act on that choice and then see the results of our actions. Unfortunately, because we don’t keep track of our decisions, by the time the results come in we’ve lost the original context for the decision. That means we can’t measure what we expected to happen versus the actual results. If you fail to keep score accurately, you can’t possibly expect to win the game.
OK, You Got Me, Now What?
The best time to start a habit is right now, and it’s easy to get started. Just download this free decision log template for Excel and Google Spreadsheets. Record your team’s decisions for the next few weeks, and let me know what happens!
This article was originally published at Forbes.com.