Ready, Fire, Aim

4 Character-Based Stumbling Blocks to Good Decision-Making

As leaders we are often called upon for decisions or to effectively guide a decision process. We face choices every day, some large, some small, some urgent, some mundane. A large part of a leader’s responsibility is focused on decision-making.

strategic decisions New Horizon Partners

A good decision process includes the following steps:

  • Ready – Identify and clearly articulate the pressing issue. This might require asking five whys or seeking other perspectives. Before we can make a good decision we need to understand and have consensus on what needs to be resolved.
  • Aim – Gather information and input. We need to make informed decisions. Once we understand the issue, we may need to identify contributing factors, decision options, and implications of various options. We may need both facts and the opinions of those involved or affected by the decision.
  • Fire – After we know the issue and understand the facts, we are ready to make a decision and take action. The final decision may fall to the leader, may be delegated, or there may be a team consensus process, depending upon the culture and nature of the decision required.

But sometimes people (or organizations) have certain stumbling blocks that interfere with making good decisions in an appropriate manner. Often these stumbling blocks can rise up out of character, interfering with an effective decision process.

Stumbling Block #1 – Ready, Fire, Aim – Some people are eager to make decisions. Maybe this comes from their desire for power or maybe from arrogance, believing they must have the right answer. These people make snap judgments and quick decisions without gathering the facts. Quick-trigger decisions can simply confuse the organization, sapping energy. Frequently someone needs to come back later and clean up the mess and choose a different path. Effective leaders are not enamored with either power or perfection but with performance; they seek to make good decisions.

Stumbling Block #2 – Ready, Ready, Ready for What? – Some people have trouble seeing the need for decisions because they have difficulty in facing reality. They cannot see the issues because they cannot accept that things are not the way that they perceive them. For example, they might refuse to believe that the market environment has changed (We don’t need to worry about those new entrants, they never survive.) or that the organization needs to change (We’ve always done it that way.) Effective leaders have a nice balance of optimism and skepticism; they are ready and able to embrace reality. They scan the horizon to identify issues early and move forward in making timely decisions.

Stumbling Block #3 – Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim…. – Some people have difficulty making a decision. They consistently need more information or they need to think about it for a while. “Let’s come back to this at another meeting.” Often this inability to make timely decisions is a result of a critical voice that tells them they need to be perfect, that they are not OK if they make a mistake. A few decisions are “do or die” but most are not. The decision process needs to gather input but, once we have the facts, we are often wasting time and energy as we wait for more information and a decision. Being timely is often as important as being right. Effective leaders have strength and confidence; with a healthy appetite for realism and facts, they are able to accept risks and the possibility of making a mistake now and then.

Stumbling Block #4 – Ready, Aim, Fi…….. – The decision is not complete until there is an appropriate action plan for implementation in place. Who does this affect? What needs to be communicated, to whom, and how? What actions need to take place? Who will be responsible? How will they be tracked? Some leaders are too busy moving on to the next issue and decision, which leaves the previous one half-baked in a sort of ADD scenario. Effective leaders understand the system and see things through; they are able to delegate and hold people responsible.

Effective leaders deal with reality and recognize issues that require decisions. In this process they are cognizant of the appropriate level for decision-making. They guide their people in gathering the relevant information needed for the decision process with reasonable confidence. They lead or oversee the appropriate decision-making process and assure that the decision is effectively implemented.

What is your decision process and where are your stumbling blocks?

  • by Jonathan Holte Posted March 25, 2017 1:20 am

    Great article. Thank you for sharing.

    • by Ken Vaughan Posted March 25, 2017 3:19 am

      Jonathan, thanks for the feedback. Glad you enjoyed the article.

  • by Nate regier Posted March 26, 2017 8:13 pm

    Great metaphor. Great article.

    • by Ken Vaughan Posted March 27, 2017 3:44 am

      Thanks, Nate. Appreciate the comment.

  • by Gary Szelagowski Posted April 4, 2017 9:54 am

    Thanks, Ken; great article. I’ve seen a lot of the “aim, aim, aim . . .” in my career 🙂 -Gary

    • by Ken Vaughan Posted April 4, 2017 1:56 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Gary. Good to hear from you and glad you liked this article. I could name names for each of these stumbling blocks. It could be an interesting project (book or dissertation?) to research which ones are most common and then dig into understanding that critical voice that produces each of these. I’m convinced that these can only be resolved effectively through some character development work.

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