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May 2008 - Decision tightrope

As I find pressures on my time continue to increase I also find that I have to make decisions much more rapidly and with less time for consultation, less cogitation. This raises the concern that quick decisions might be rash decisions. Is that a reasonable concern I wonder?

What and where are the risks in quick decisions? I guess the biggest risk is making an ill-informed decision. Making a decision having only half the information that is needed. You may get it right, but you may not. A second, and equally important, risk is that your team can feel they were inadequately consulted on the issue. This has deep ramifications.

What are the risks of not making quick decisions? Principle among them would be, missing opportunities, failing to deal with a clinical error expeditiously, generating a feeling among the team that one is simply drifting. All of these risks have negative consequences, with stagnation the ultimate end result when decisions simply cannot be made. Is decision making really a lose- lose situation?

It is increasingly important to make decisions quickly so as not to lose opportunities and to ensure the highest possible quality of service. I would like to suggest a few strategies that could possibly help us balance on the decision-making tightrope.

  1. Get all the information together before considering your decision. Have your team prepare a case that considers pros and cons rather than simply asking if something can be done. This results in your team having a better understanding of the issues and learning how to write cases. Your being able to consider the arguments as outlaid and using your additional experience should lead to a better decision.
  2. Involve the team in decisions. Don't consider the cases and make decisions in isolation. Meet with the team and discuss the cases and make a joint decision. Many times you will not have a unanimous agreement, but by having the issues on the table, you are more likely to get acceptance of your decisions.
  3. Take responsibility for the decisions. It is very important, even when decisions are made after team discussion, that the responsibility is seen to be yours, as manager. Leadership is about empowering your team, yet being accountable to them.
  4. Have the confidence to accept that you will get decisions wrong from time to time. The important thing is that you can develop a strategy to deal with a wrong decision. Be aware of the ramifications of your decisions so you can identify when the decision may be going wrong. A wrong decision will have a cost, but experience is built on wrong decisions. We learn not when we get things right but when we err.

Quick decisions do not have to be rash decisions. Made well, they ensure progression and growth. The inability to make a decision will likely fragment your team and stagnation will ensue. Yes it is a tightrope and you put yourself out there, but hey the adrenaline rush is great!

'til next time,

K.

May, 2008

kevin.gain@health.wa.gov.au

 

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