How to Avoid Failure in Judgment and Decision Making

All of our decisions are based on a well researched and proven “value chain” that helps determine both the nature and the quality of the choices we make. In short, all of our decisions, especially those we make in business, are based on a premise (right or wrong), which in turn shapes the assumptions we make, which lead to the conclusions we draw and the actions we take – or do not take. It is a little more complicated than that but, for our purposes, let’s simply say that premises and assumptions are the raw materials of all decisions, and the chain of events that make up this process are fundamental to the success of any organization.

Taking care in your decision making

It has long been bewildering why leaders do not seem to take either enough care of, or pay enough attention to, the decision making process within their organizations. The same leaders who will spend millions of dollars to improve the efficiency of an outdated IT system, or an inefficient manufacturing system, or a faulty sales process have, generally speaking, never really considered spending any money on improving the corporation’s decision making process.

As leaders, it is our obligation to do justice to this one vital element of organizational effectiveness which many of us have been afraid to address for far too long. A good place to begin, in our view, is redefining what it means to fail.

We have all heard the phrase that we “learn more from our failures than our successes”. If that is true, then you have to wonder why we have not done a better job of formalizing the “learning from mistakes process” in order to improve the learning itself. In this case, like so many other urban myths, the words are nice and the thoughts somehow comfortable and reassuring, but the reality is quite different.

In short, we will have to apply more rigour and scrutiny to our failures if we want to create new opportunities to reinvent our organizations, the products we offer, the value we create and the people we chose to be our leaders.

We need to examine failure not just through the lens of failed outcomes, but also in terms of:

  • Failure of Opportunity
  • Failure of Trust
  • Failure of Will
  • Failure of Priorities
  • Failure of Respect

Think about it for just a minute.

The “value” created by any leader, team or organization is really the sum total of all of the decisions made by the leader, the team or the organization over time. The improvements we make, the breakthroughs we have, the innovations we spawn, and the outcomes we achieve are all, ultimately, based on the quality of the decisions made, both large and small. While much has been written on the importance of execution (which we do not deny or dismiss), the fact of the matter is there can be no more important attribute for defining individual or collective success than the ability to make great decisions.

In others words, while executing the decision is important, the things that govern the decision and the decision making process itself are equally important.