Being a good decision maker is one of the toughest things to be. It isn’t just about being smart, but, also has a huge dependency on being able to make quick decisions and think on your feet. Some of the best decisions that I’ve seen people make were on the spot and a decision had to be made right there. It is extremely important to startups to think this way, which is why I thought it was important to start a conversation about the topic.
Don’t get caught up in your own head
Whether you are a startup, big company, agency, consultant, or you just run a site, it is very easy to get in your own way. People tend to get stuck in their own head thinking through things with a case of “analysis paralysis,” or, we get so caught up that we are afraid to make a decision. I think we have all been that person at some point in our careers. But, it is so important not to let this happen, it will slow you WAY down. It’s a destructive cycle and people can get caught in doing so much analysis to making a decision that we end up not making one and wasting resources and cycles thinking and weighing out a decision, that we’ll never make. Or, worse, it will be too late because your competitor has beaten you to the punch on a feature, content creation, content promotion, or some other situation.
What is Analysis Paralysis and how we defeat it?
Analysis Paralysis is the process of over-thinking a situation or decision, which ends up in a decision or outcome that is never reached. People usually end up here because they spend entirely to much time weighing out the pros and cons of a situation, or the various outcomes of that situation.
Obviously, you can work around this by making quick and smart decisions, but, many times, the answers and outcomes are just not simple enough to attain. So, when you do have a decision that requires you to weigh out pro’s and con’s, I like to put a deadline on measuring out all the decisions and probabilities. It’s almost like putting together a plan to the decision making process so you can achieve the goal of actually making a decision. It seems kind of silly that you need to create a plan just to make a decision, but, it can be a very effective way of coming to a conclusion. As with anything, creating a deadline removes the possibility of ever-extending the procrastination phase of decision making, and forces you to make one.
How to make faster decisions
I’ve prided myself in being able to make quick and smart decisions. Now, that doesn’t always mean I make the right decisions and it also doesn’t mean I don’t fail. I make bad decisions and fail just as much as the next guy. The key isn’t the failure and focusing on the failure, it is focusing on how quickly you recover and start moving forward again. While I do agree that the Mantra of failing fast should die, I do not agree that you shouldn’t Fail Fast when it comes to one of decisions. Features, ideas, and at the end of the day, decisions should be made with the thought that you are going to fail at some point. The key is knowing that you made a bad decision and learning from the failure and fixing the situation. This is how you end up moving faster and being a quicker decision maker, by knowing that you’ll make a mistake and making decisions based on not just pro’s and con’s, but sometimes good old intuition and guts.
At every big company that I’ve been at, I’ve watched everyone from individual contributors to execs fail and being able to make decisions and being complacent about moving things forward. There are a variety of reasons for this, from fear of failure and making a mistake to being afraid of going against the grain and offending others. This is no way to run a business, especially if you are a startup. You can’t live in fear and you can not be afraid of making a bad decision. Once you remove this from your mentality, you’re decision making process will speed up. By telling yourself it is okay, by knowing you will make a mistake at some point and make a bade decision…You will make faster decisions.
Recovering from mistakes
Another way that you can learn to make faster decisions, and even better decisions is by having a process to recover from failure. Even in situations where I go with my gut instinct and say “just go for it,” I know that I am going to make a mistake at some point. But, knowing that I don’t have a problem with making a mistake and I’m okay with being wrong, allows me to recover quicker. Alright, I can thinking to yourself, “How the hell do you recover fast from a gut decision??” Well, it’s knowing this that allows you to always think on your feet and come up with a plan to fix situations you run into faster and look at data with a more open mind. Once you’ve done that, you can analyze a decisions every step of the process after making it and if it starts to fail or ends up tanking, you can adjust quicker and recover from mistakes faster.
I’ll admit though, some decisions are bigger than others and the mistakes are going to be fairly large. But, that is where it is extremely important to mitigate the size of the failure through well thought out testing and contingency plans. Many decisions online can be tested with an A/B test or some form of multivariate testing. Assuming that you can’t test, do you have a back up plan? If your project fails, do you have a plan b that mitigates the size of the loss? These are the questions that you should be asking yourself when making a decision. Having a test plan and contingency plan can make or break the recovery process of the bad decisions that you make.
At the end of the day, being a better and faster decision maker isn’t just about saying I want to be better and faster. It’s about knowing that you’re going to make mistakes, it’s about learning from past mistakes and it’s about knowing that you’re not going to let that mistake kill your business. Just today, I was talking through a decision with a good friend and colleague and I realized that I was letting fear and my own head get in the way of moving forward with a project. After a minute or two, I realized this, and forced myself to just say, “We’re doing it!” Over the course of the day I came up with a plan for the project and a pitch for it. I don’t have a test plan or contingency plan yet, but, while waiting for approvals, I can figure that all out and get it squared away. But, the important thing was, I made a decision, stuck with it, and can iron out details later.