Overrated: Decision-Making

Once the heavy lifting of making a decision is done, what’s critical is how you manage the ones you’ve already made to ensure their success.

There is no shortage of books, articles and blog posts addressing the art and science of making good decisions. The attention paid to this subject is warranted, no doubt. The news headlines are littered with stories of people who, in one form or another, have made poor decisions. The ripple effects of poor decision-making are felt throughout our society.

I’d like to shift the conversation, though, from decision-making to a concept that I believe is of at least equal importance: decision management. The attention given to decision-making might lead one to believe that once a decision has been made, the heavy lifting is done.

However, what makes a decision a good one or a poor one often comes down to what happens next. I use the term “decision management,” which some may say is synonymous with “execution.” Whatever you call it, decision management refers to how we manage the decisions we have already made to achieve the success those decisions were intended to create when we made them.

I have observed three qualities that allow people to realize a successful outcome from a good decision: 1) self-awareness; 2) patience/perseverance; and 3) focus.

  1. Self-Awareness: Some people are gifted with the talents required to be both a great decision maker and a great decision manager. Many of us, though, are better at one or the other. Defeating pride and admitting where we need to tap into the talents of others can make the difference between success and failure. Some of the greatest coaches in professional sports (think Pat Riley and Tony LaRussa) had less-than-legendary careers as players. Creating and casting a vision (or drawing up a game plan) is a much different skill set than the one required to execute the game plan. Know your strengths, and then play to those.
  2. Patience/Perseverance: In our instant gratification, microwavable society, patience is somewhat of a lost virtue. The excitement surrounding a decision and the initiation of action often give way to the monotony of daily activity. If progress and results are not visible immediately, our commitment to the process can wane. In his book, “The Slight Edge,” author Jeff Olson states that simple daily disciplines, repeated consistently over time, can lead us to success. He presents a formula whereby consistently repeated daily actions, multiplied by time, equals a successful result. Some are unable to sustain a level of success once it has been achieved because they stop doing the things that created that success in the first place.
  3. Focus: Cal Newport, author of the book, “Deep Work,” stated that “focus is the new IQ.” Managing decisions already made requires a level of focus and attention that is difficult for some to maintain. We seem to be surrounded by various “shiny objects” that beg for our attention. The quest for the new thing often eclipses the continued pursuit of the desired thing. Disciplining our minds to stay the course when distraction surrounds us can make all of the difference.

Continue to make great decisions, but don’t forget to maintain focus and energy around managing the great decisions you’ve already made.


Robert J. Allen is board president of Leadership Fort Worth, a regular contributor to FW Inc.