“In a minute, there is time for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”
This line from the 1915 T.S. Elliot poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, is a lovely bit of poetry. It is also a prescription for how not to run a business.
To be successful leaders running successful businesses, we need to be decisive. We need to make a decision, decide on a course of action, and then work relentlessly to execute on the decision.
“The one word that makes a good manager — decisiveness.” Lee Iacocca
Why Do We Need to Be Decisive?
Being decisive creates clarity. The decision has been made and everyone now knows how to move forward. It also minimizes wasted time. In many companies, lower levels of the organization wait (wastefully) for a decision or approval to come from top management delaying their moving forward to implement a decision or start on a course of action.
Being decisive also creates speed. Decisions get made; things get done; and the company moves forward. In today’s world, speed and responsiveness are vital and require decisive leaders.
Third, as Machievelli writes, decisiveness prevents the risk of inaction:
“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth.” Niccolo Machiavelli
Risks of Being Decisive
Yes, being decisive creates risks that we may make an incorrect decision. But, every decision has risks because every decision in business is made with incomplete information. Far too often, leaders wait for more confirming information (which may never come) to justify their decision. This “analysis paralysis” may delay a decision until it is too late. Or, more likely, it wastes your team’s time as they do research to justify a decision that the leader has already made in his or her head and just wants more proof before announcing to the team.
How to Be Decisive
To be decisive, we have to weigh the evidence and facts generally available. And then decide on a course of action and work hard to make it successful.
“We need to stop spending so much of our time trying to make the right decisions and instead start spending our time making decisions and making them right.” Rory Vaden
“The secret to success lies in careful preparation followed by speedy and decisive execution.” Napoleon
Importantly, we need to make small, unimportant decisions quickly to allow time to consider and reflect upon the bigger decisions. In the book, Skills for Success: The Experts Show the Way, the authors summarize an effective rule of thumb on how to be decisive:
“Decisiveness in decisions is vital. Make 80% of your decisions on the spot; 15% need to mature; 5% need not be made at all.”
To move our companies forward, we need to avoid the indecision of a J. Alfred Prufrock (and many managers). Instead, we need to weigh the evidence and quickly make a decision. We need to make being decisive the way we run our companies each and every day.