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Late last year, one of BMW’s chief labor representatives chastised the company for taking too long to develop battery-powered cars. In his view, BMW management had been slow to invest in the technology, and if it didn’t move soon, it would be too late.
That logic applies to more than just the auto industry. Businesses succeed by making decisions and getting things done. I’ve worked with thousands of companies, and I can say without reservation that execution is the biggest driver of success.
Entrepreneurs can’t afford to spend a long time considering anything. You aren’t “considering”; you’re stalling. The stronger course of action is to weigh the factors that matter most, make sure the information you have is accurate and then make a decision.
Analysis paralysis can kill your business in the long run, but there are steps you can take to avoid falling into that trap.
A cautionary tale
I once performed a digital marketing audit for a large company. The audit revealed everything the team needed to improve. They never found another agency, but they kept saying they just weren’t ready to make the call to start working with me.
After a year and a half, I stopped reaching out. Another 18 months later, the company was sold to a private equity firm for pennies, and the new owners fired most of the team — including the guy who couldn’t pull the trigger on marketing. Ironically, the new head of marketing reached out to me, and we started talking business again.
If you can’t keep up with the pace of business, your company is as doomed as that wishy-washy decision maker’s job. You can’t blame misinformation for slowing down the process. Indecisiveness can stem from several factors, including nervousness, insecurity, lack of autonomy and fear of commitment (or even a culture that doesn’t allow mistakes).
You won’t find any of these factors at play in a well-run organization. Instead, you’ll encounter owners, leaders, managers and employees who are confident enough to make timely, informed decisions that keep their business moving forward.
According to a TechCrunch article, Venture Capitalist Mark Suster said entrepreneurs must make decisions quickly, knowing that they’re going to be right 70 percent of the time, at best. The key for company leaders isn’t just to make the right calls, but also to take enough action that their wins outweigh your losses.
Are you slow to make decisions, big or small? Consider these tips:
1. Know your desired outcome. What are the main variables you must identify to make the decision? You won’t ever know everything — in fact, an International Data Corporation study reported that 42 percent of managers regularly had to make important decisions within 24 hours without solid data. So, identify a few of the factors that matter most, and focus on those when making your choice.
At my company, for example, we’re looking for a software program to help manage our whole employee feedback review, and there are a lot of options. My team figured out some key features our platform needs, such as 360 reviews (which we love). So, a question we ask any sales rep is, “Do you offer the capability to do 360 reviews?”
If the answer is “no,” we move on. Once we find the software that meets our needs, it won’t be a long decision-making process. If it does what we need it to do and the price is right, we’ll know that’s it.
2. Empower decision-makers. If you’re a business owner, you can make any decision you want, but not every major decision choice should fall on your plate. If you task someone to do research or manage account communications, you have to empower him or her to make decisions without stopping to get your go-ahead. Otherwise, the process will take twice as long.
Throwing someone at a project who doesn’t have the ability to make a decision just wastes everyone’s time.
Take Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, for example. Its next Ram 1500 pickup has become such a priority that the higher-ups have empowered some engineers to make on-the-spot decisions. Previously, the time it took to make these decisions delayed launches significantly and would cost the company money. Now, there’s no running things up the chain of command and no bottlenecks. Suppliers say this new process is responsible for keeping that next-gen Ram 1500 project on schedule.
3. Delay only for good reasons. If you find yourself in a position where you can’t say “yes” or “no” that very moment, that’s fine (as long as there’s a solid reason behind the delay). Maybe you’re talking to other vendors and want to hear from everyone first, or you want to take a day to weigh the pros and cons. Go for it — those are great reasons to postpone a decision. Just don’t say, “I’ll have to think about it” or “I need more time” with nothing to back it up.
I’m talking to one company that’s struggling with this. It has the budget, and its investors are excited, but the company keeps waiting to commit to a final choice. When I follow up, its leaders assure me they have all the information at hand. If that’s true, what’s the holdup?
Any time your company is faced with a decision, you must make sure the process doesn’t get stalled. Collect all relevant information, weigh your options and pull the trigger. Avoiding analysis paralysis will keep your company moving toward a successful future.