You never have all the info

Some leaders struggle to make decisions. This was a complaint about Bill Clinton during his first term as President. He always wanted just a little more information before he would make a decision. While we always want to have the best information before making decisions we also do not want to suffer from “analysis paralysis.”

The problem is that will always be more information that can be obtained, but sometimes the decision cannot wait until that last piece of information is discovered. Leaders have to learn to make the best decision they can make with the information they currently have. As new information becomes available they can adjust their decision to reflect the new information they’ve gained.

Several years ago I toured a factory owned by a foreign company. The individual who guided us was well-known by some in our party as they had worked with him in the company we worked for. One of the men in our group asked him the biggest difference he had found working for this foreign-owned company and the one we worked for. He responded immediately the biggest difference was in how decisions were made.

As an engineer in our company he was required to turn in a request for any changes he wanted to make. These changes had to go up the management line for approval at each level. It was a process that could take months. He would often have to meet with each manager to explain the benefits of the change which took time away from his primary responsibilities.

In the new company he now worked for he would take his proposals for change to one person who had the authority to approve it immediately. He could have the approval for a million dollar change in a matter of a couple of hours rather than waiting months to see if his request would be approved.

The American-owned company was very risk-averse and demanded much more information that was sometimes needed before making decisions. No one in the company wanted to be the person who approved a mistake so every proposal was passed up the line so each manager could cover their butts if it proved to be a mistake. The foreign-owned business trusted the people it had in charge to make wise decisions and didn’t require several layers of bureaucratic oversight. This allowed them to adapt to changes quickly and respond to opportunities much quicker than their American-owner competitor.

This experience occurred several years ago. Our world is changing much more rapidly today than then, and businesses much be able to respond to those changes quickly. This is not advocating shooting from the hip when making decisions, but at the same time we cannot wait until we have all the information available before moving forward.

Make the best decision today you can with the information you have available, and be ready to tweak that decision tomorrow if new information becomes available. You will often find this will give you an advantage over your competitors and set you up to be more successful.


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