How to Become a Better Decision Maker

“Deliberate” is the opposite of impulsive, hasty or accidental. It implies purposefulness, intentionality and strength of conviction.

What are the keys to gaining confidence as a decision-maker? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

As decision makers facing ambiguity and uncertainty, we are confident when:

* We feel that we have a comprehensive understanding both of the specific issue at hand as well as its broader environmental context;

* We have done our homework;

* We perceive that the downside risk is acceptable and manageable; and

* We feel that if we make reasoned decisions intended for the collective best interest, our colleagues and leaders will judge honest mistakes and inevitable setbacks in good faith, thus fully sharing our successes as well as failures.

In our new book, Agility: How to Navigate the Unknown and Seize Opportunity in a World of Disruption, General Jacoby and I put forth the following consequential premise: when all of this comes together, leaders and organizations gain decisiveness, a special quality that we define as a bias for deliberate action.

As one of three pillars of agility, decisiveness positions leaders, teams, and “teams of teams” to act in a time­ly and calculated manner when opportunities and challenges arise. It is a powerful remedy against inaction and paralysis induced by uncertainty, the fog of conflict, or the fear of failure. Importantly, agility rests not just on a bias for any action – like those based on overconfidence, unrealistic optimism, gut feelings, or fight-or-flight reflexes – but on a bias for deliberate action by competent and confident decision makers.

“Deliberate” is the opposite of impulsive, hasty or accidental. It implies purposefulness, intentionality and strength of conviction.

Deliberate actions are grounded in risk intelligence – the organizational ability to think holistically about risk and uncertainty and effectively use forward‐looking risk concepts and tools in making better decisions, alleviating threats, capturing opportunities, and creating lasting value. They follow a concerted intelligence gathering effort which enables us to identify an entire range of risks and uncertainties facing an initiative or our entire organization. Deliberate actions are based on a careful determination that our risks are aligned with our goals, available resources, and our capacity to bear the negative consequences.

Deliberate actions follow an evidence-based inquiry where truth trumps formal authority, personal agendas, or ideology. When we work with governments, companies, and investors, we frequently emphasize that successfully operating in environments that are filled with uncertainty and ambiguity requires an organizational setting that supports and rewards the principled pursuit of truth. Said differently, achieving agility is not possible when vigorous evidence-based debate is not consistently practiced. That de­bate must not be isolated to silos or specific decision-making occasions, like executive team and board meetings. The unfettered exchange of ideas must become the pervasive social norm at all times, at all organizational levels and out to the very edges. When this happens, the whole organization becomes what we call a Forum of Truth.

Deliberate decisions and ac­tions are explicitly designed and sequenced to advance the organization’s strategy and priorities. They are an outcome of preparedness and planning. They are executed decisively, evenhandedly and systematically when the moment is right.

Deliberate decisions are based on a carefully considered risk transaction: trusting that the team assigned to carry out a mission is cohesive, motivated, capable and unified around the shared True North. Thus, decisiveness is an outcome of what we call the Agility Setting, an environment of accountability, empowerment, and trust deliberately created and relentlessly nurtured by what we call a special brand of leadership.

To be truly agile, our organizations must possess both strategic and tactical agility – which means that they must be decisive both strategically and tactically. Strategic agility enables entire organizations to move with the speed of relevance: to detect and assess major trends and environmental changes and dynamically adapt their strategic visions, business models, human capital and campaign plans. Tactical agility enables employees to move with the speed of the chal­lenge: to take smart risks, capture opportunities, improvise and innovate as they execute a clear strategy. This requires the buy-in and active engagement of the whole organization, up and down the hierarchy and out to the very edges.

When we are decisive and agile both strategically and tactically, we position ourselves to confidently brave the world of accelerating change, overarching uncertainty, and persistent conflict – and channel the entirety of the orga­nization’s energy toward clear, inspirational objectives for the benefit of all stakeholders.

This question originally appeared on Quora. More questions on Quora:

* Leadership: What are some tips for calculating risk and becoming a more effective decision-maker?

* Organizational Behavior: Why are people so uncomfortable with uncertainty, and how can we keep that tendency in check?

* Business: How can business leaders inspire a “winning” mindset in their employees?

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