One of the potentially frightening things about being a manager is the need to make decisions; many, many decisions. This is typically more of a problem for new managers than it is for experienced managers, but it would not hurt either type of manager to brush up on how to make better management decisions. The rest of this article will mainly focus on “bigger” management decisions, or those that happen less frequently and are more likely to have a bigger impact on the company. Smaller management decisions are important too but are less likely to get noticed, even if they are regularly made correctly, than the bigger ones. But managers should of course aim to make good management decisions big or small, for their sake and for the company’s sake.
Managers have the important task of making the best decisions possible in the shortest amount of time using the most information available. Some decisions can be handled by front-line employees, but frequently there are thresholds where management approval is needed to ensure the best decision possible is made. Even still, managers are typically graded on the decision making of their subordinates anyway. Managers should focus on making sure they have as much information available as possible because 1) it means they will be more likely to make the best decision, and 2) it is a variable that managers typically have more control over compared to others such as time or financial resources.
Next, managers benefit greatly in making decision by getting better and better at crafting alternatives with the information available to them (the more of which the better, of course). Managers who think that having to pick between multiple alternatives will slow them down or lead to analysis paralysis would do well to get over that in a hurry because executives have short patience for managers they constantly see boxing themselves in a corner with the excuse “well, the bad decision I made was the only one available; there were no alternatives.” Sometimes it is true that it comes down to choosing a least-bad course of action, but again having more alternatives available increases the likelihood of making a better decision in an ugly situation.
The topic of decision making is difficult to even discuss of course because how can you know you’ve made a good management decision versus a bad one? Or more importantly, how can the company? This is where it is important to outline what a successful management decision looks like, providing as many metrics as necessary, to avoid confusion and give other stakeholders at the company confidence that your decision was the best one.