Five Executive Decision Making Myths
With over 200 executives from 14 countries who have been through my Coaching & Mentoring Program, I have learned a great deal about executive decision making by observing the behaviours and actions of CEOs and senior staff in large international companies and SMEs.
There are three components to decisions: social, emotional and political. Politics is not always destructive, as most would believe. Politics is not pathology nor just quantitative models. This isn’t the only mistaken impression. My observation of executive decision making is that there are five myths that perpetuate:
- The CEO decides. Reality: Strategic decision making entails a simultaneous activity by people at multiple levels of the organisation.
- Decisions are made in the room. Reality: Much of the real work occurs on the frontline, in one-on-one conversations or small subgroups, in the back rooms, and even off-line, nor around the boardroom table. The purpose of formal meetings is often simply to ratify decisions that have already been made.
- Decisions are largely intellectual. Reality: High-stakes decisions are complex social, emotional, and political processes. Social pressure for conformity; emotions can motivate or paralyse; political behaviours such as coalition building, lobbying, and bargaining play an important role in organisational decision-making.
- Managers analyse and then decide. Reality: Strategic decisions unfold in a non-linear fashion, with solutions frequently arising before managers define problems around lies alternatives. Decision-making processes really flow in a linear sequence. Sometimes, solutions go in search of problems to solve.
- Managers decide and then act. Reality: strategic decisions often evolve over time and proceed through an irate of process of choice and action. We often take some actions, makes sense of those actions, and then make some decisions about how we want to move forward.
Many leaders fail because they think of decisions as events, not processes. The reality is decisions involve processes that take place inside the minds of individuals, within groups, and across units of complex organisations. The truth is that the analysis may come after the decision is made and is therefore used solely as a tool of persuasion.