The Importance of Making Quick Decisions

Decision makingAs with so many things in life, I’ve found through experience just how critical and rare it is to have the ability to make quick decisions. Nowhere is this more important than in business, but it can also apply to just about any activity in one’s life. Making quick decisions is not the same as making uninformed decisions or decisions without any substance. No, making quick decisions is having the facts and being able to confidently take an action based on those facts and one’s analysis. There is no point lingering, questioning yourself over and over, and anguishing and tormenting over the facts.The facts are not going to change, and, likely, your first decision had merit to begin with or you never would have went down that road.

At one point in my life, specifically, after graduating undergrad, I found myself in the company of those who just could not seem to be make quick decisions; I was part of the club as they would say! Now, 10 years later, over time and with experience, I have learned to make quick decisions and my productivity has drastically increased. Today, nothing irritates or gets under my skin more that those who linger over decision-making. The larger the decision, the worse the lingering. There are even some who linger over every small decision in their daily lives, such as what clothes to wear to work. I can tell you from experience and from having worked in the high tech industry for over 10 years, the inability to make quick decisions will drain a person of productivity and often success.

Too many people question or second guess their decisions. This often does nothing but delay action and decrease productivity. Yes, the decision may not be the right one, but if you fail quick and recover, you will still be ahead of those still second guessing their first decision. You’ll have learned, recovered, and moved on while others are still second guessing! You may say, “well , what if the decision is big and may change my entire life, and I may not be able to recover quick?” Well, to that I would say, you’ve already done your research, you already know the facts, and there is no need to fall into the trap of analysis paralysis, because, at the end of the day a decision has to be made, and the facts are going to be exactly the same. Worse, you may start analyzing or bringing irrelevant matters into the thought process which are more bound to lead you to a wrong decision. On top of that, you are creating undue stress for yourself and losing the most valuable asset you have – time!

Someone once told me a story of a friend of theirs, a well known senior executive of one of the largest companies in the world, who could not make a decision on purchasing a rather large personal item (several million dollars). I will keep this as anonymous as possible by not listing names, companies, or the item(s) in questions, as I do not want to identify any party. Every-time he/she came close to a deal, he/she would pull out or think of something he/she missed looking at. Finally, at the last moment, the person in question decided not to move ahead.

Three questions for you:

1.) What impression comes into your mind of a senior executive who goes back-and-forth on a decision to purchase a personal item?

2.) Would you want to hire this person to help lead your company?

3.) How productive do you think this person was at work during this time with all the other business decisions he/she needed to make?

There is a very interesting documentary called ‘The Pit’; it describes and shows first-hand the financial chaos and cut-throat world of commodities trading on the floor of the New York Board of Trade. Although electronic trading is making trading on the floor obsolete except in New York and Chicago where there is still some presence, the documentary captures some interesting insights from people who worked the floors. One very successful trader stated “Guys that make it down there, believe it or not, never went to college; they have to have street smarts. They have to react. Guys following charts and everything…. they’re not risk takers; I don’t even see how they make money. All they do is read what it says on the sheet and go fifty bid. By the time you figure out what this is worth, I’ve already sold it or bought it and made my money or lost my money, and by the time you figure it out, it’s not there no more.”

I found this interesting but more importantly it made sense. At the end of the day, in business, fortunes are built on those who take action, not on those who educate themselves to the nth degree and analyze everything to the point where the opportunity may not even exist anymore. Now this may be an extreme example, but keep in mind, these traders are not simply gambling – yes there is risk, but they’re making rapid calculated decisions. Most importantly, they’re taking quick action on the decisions they make.

It’s interesting that some people will not be able to make a decision even if it’s somewhat obvious that the decision they are about to make will be of benefit to them; in fact, then they will start questioning if there is a catch or something they’re missing. As mentioned prior, in certain cases in business, this inability to make a quick decision could cost them the deal in which case they no longer have an option.

I’ve learned much myself through the years; sometimes the hard way through real-life experience. I hope you take to heed the importance of making quick decisions backed by your facts/analysis. Don’t be afraid to be wrong; be more afraid to fail due to analysis paralysis or inaction. And one word of caution to those starting business ventures with partners – make sure the partner you choose is on the same page as you in terms of analyzing the facts and making quick decisions. I’ve seen start-ups/companies fail simply due to the fact that one partner was unable to timely decide on a course of action when big decisions needed to be made. In my opinion, starting a company without this critical skill of making quick decisions is comparable to suicide.


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