Have you ever considered that more of your difficulties at work come from decisions that are NOT made than those that are? How often do you wait for a decision to come from "on high" only to discover that by the time it does the opportunity has passed you by? My guess is that if you think about it, you'll probably conclude that it happens more often than you realize.
You come up with an idea for a process that could save the company significant money, but you need to wait for permission. In the meantime, those precious dollars continue to be wasted. Someone in your department has a great idea for a new product, but it must be evaluated, developed, and test-marketed before ever seeing the light of day. By the time it does, some quick-thinking, more nimble company has cornered the market.
Or it might be something as simple as responding quickly to a customer request or complaint. By the time you get the blessing from above to respond as you suggested, the customer has moved on to a competitor. Companies, especially as they grow, seem to take incredible amounts of time deliberating issues. Instead of being decisive, they become crippled with analysis and second-guessing.
So why does this happen?
Some people are just afraid to make decisions. Don't believe me? In 1973, Walter Kaufmann of Princeton University, no less, coined the term "decidophobia" as being the fear of making serious decisions.
So why is it that in a business setting we have people in positions of responsibility who are unwilling or afraid to make a decision? I'd argue it's not that people are afraid of making a decision, but that they are afraid of making the wrong decision. So what breeds this fear? I think that this fear in any company can be attributed to one of two things:
1. People have been punished for making a bad decision. Let me begin by saying that some decisions are so boneheaded that the person who made them deserves punishment up to and including termination. And there are many cases when a bad decision, or a series of them, may lead to someone being rightly reprimanded or losing out on a bonus or promotion.
But, in the course of everyday business, we ask managers and employees alike to make decisions for the business. Inherent in every decision is some element of risk. It's part of doing business. And, often, the greater the risk, the greater the reward. So if a person is punished for every decision he makes that doesn't work out perfectly, he will become reluctant or fearful to continue to make decisions.
Think about it. If he makes a decision and it turns out well, he's done his job. But if he makes a decision and it turns out anything less than expected, he's punished. What do you expect will happen? There's no real upside in making a decision.
Once employees have discovered this, the result is that they either become painfully deliberate in their decisionmaking or look for affirmation from someone else before finalizing any decision. Either way, the decisionmaking process is slowed. And if the punishments are consistent enough over time, the individual will lose all ability to make a decision.
2. People are not rewarded for making good decisions. If there's absolutely no upside in making good decisions but there is potential downside in making a bad decision, all incentive for decisionmaking goes out the window. A company must create a culture in which good decisions are rewarded. You want to give people incentives to make decisions, and the way to do that is to reward them for making good ones. You might even want to reward people who are willing to take the risk of making a bad decision, just for taking the risk. At least they're trying. You know, "if all else fails, do SOMETHING."
And if your company routinely punishes bad decisions but never rewards the good ones, look out! Show me that company and I'll show you a company where no one wants to make a decision — except maybe the new guy who has yet to learn the lesson!
Bottom line is that you need to make sure that people don't feel like they're being punished every time they make a mistake and, at the same time, do feel rewarded when they make good decisions. Anything less is likely to result in paralysis when it comes to decision making.
Thanks to Dan Oswald / HR Hero