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Waffle, waffle, move or topple, make a decision, please! The increasing complexity of global business, expanding markets and seemingly endless opportunities in which to compete for consumer attention has created a new paradigm in which managers and leaders are forced to evaluate the quality, timeliness and frequency of their decision making. The ancient luxury of letting a decision sit in the in-box for months at a time, hoping that it will go away, is reflective of a time when domestic tranquility was a 60 percent market share and competition was a gentleman’s agreement about not airing each other’s dirty laundry. In that atmosphere, managers were taught numerous rational decision making processes, all of which were designed to minimize the human equation and maximize the objectivity of the decision. A crucial variable in the decision mix was ‘the amount of information needed’ before rendering a rational decision. This often misused and misaligned variable became the accepted norm for delaying a decision until all the ‘facts’ were known. It was an incredible assumption, even for a time when the domestic marketplace was dominated by brand name producers. In an odd sort of way, the process allowed for rewarding ‘not’ making a decision as opposed to actually making one. Consequently, managers of that era took comfort knowing that many of their risk-aversive decisions would move them up the corporate ladder a lot faster than a decision that ran a greater risk of not working. In doing so, we created a culture of comfort as opposed to one of constant innovation.

Legacies from a bygone era only serve to remind us of how far we’ve come and how much more is needed. The decision making process in the business arena has taken a one hundred and eighty degree turn from the days of old. Unfortunately, far too many managers neglected to make the turn from reliance on not having enough information to ‘going with what you have’. The global changes that have forced business into uncomfortable, but necessary actions has also changed the dynamic of the decision making process such that the process is not depicted as a linear design, but a pie chart. The decision making pie chart is part rationale, part gut, part information and part opinion. The percentages of those parts vary with the nature of the business and the person making the decision. However, all of those parts sit in a pie pan called ‘timing’.
Knowing when the right time to make a decision is more an art form than science, but it is an essential piece of the equation. What makes it such an important piece is that it can jettison a manager’s career or send it into a crash and burn. The speed with which business moves in this global environment makes it even harder to have all the information at the time that it is needed. Managers untrained in the fine art of ‘timing’ as a factor in decision making will oftentimes waffle around the decision before actually moving it forward. What they fail to realize is that when they delay a decision in an effort to minimize the risk, they actually increase the risk through their procrastination. Decision making in the global environment is about (1) analysis of factors, (2) formulating a strategy, (3) implementing the decision and (4) having the flexibility to make changes where needed.
The global business environment is not a place where waffling around a decision can be tolerated. As more countries gear up to become players in the global game, the rules that governed the decision making process have been replaced by more staunch realities. The hard core reality is that it is harder and harder to waffle when there is so much at stake.

© 2013 Lee E. Meadows
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