As people, we make decisions all day long, starting from what time we wake up, to what time we go to sleep. Some decisions are relatively simple and others quite difficult. There are people wiser than I who study decision-making, and if you want to really go deep, I encourage you to do some research on your own.
In this article, I discuss how to make decisions concisely, and, when necessary, with a sense of urgency. I am drawing on my years of experience and on my work coaching leaders over time. These strategies have served us well and I know they will serve you well too!
Making the Just Right Decision
Decision-making is one of the most important jobs a leader has. Some decisions can be made quickly, while others may take more time. There are times when you need more time to make a decision and just don’t have it. You need to focus on making the "just right decision". A just-right decision is a decision based on the information that you have in front of you at the time. Focusing on getting the decision right or fearing that you may get it wrong can paralyze you from making any decision.
I can’t tell you how many decisions I have made as a CEO. I have made simple, quick decisions, like what color we would paint the walls, too difficult decisions, like terminating a staff member. You too will be faced with a myriad of decisions; some will be time-sensitive and urgent, and others may be made slowly. The steps for making thoughtful and concise decisions are outlined below. Think of the acronym, IDECIDE, when going through your decision-making process.
● I — Identify the problem: In order to make the best decision possible, you need to first identify the problem. For example, while looking at student data, is the problem you observe curriculum-based or instruction-based? In this example, the decision you will make will be different for each problem. You cannot make a thoughtful, impactful decision without figuring out what problem you are trying to solve.
● D — Due diligence: As you get ready to solve the problem, you need to gather information on it. Consider what information you need to make the best possible decision. What data should you review? What does your gut say? What other information exists that would help you understand the problem and contemplate solutions?
● E — Each possible solution: Carefully review each possible solution you can consider. Don’t put any limitations on your solutions; think outside of the ordinary answers. I was at a workshop once and the presenter said that after you consider a solution, you should then ask yourself, “What’s the next best idea?” By doing that, you will broaden your options.
● C — Cons v. pros: Each possible solution will have potential cons and pros. Review each and make a list. Weigh the impact of each to determine the risk versus reward.
● I — Input: When making difficult decisions, it is always good practice to run your decision by someone you trust. As a superintendent, there are times, for various reasons, when there is no one in your organization who you can speak with. Having a coach would be beneficial for that reason. A coach is a non-affected third party who can give you honest feedback on your potential decision.
● D — Decide: Make the best decision you can with the information that you have. Don’t avoid making a decision; people are looking to you for leadership and guidance.
● E — Educate and Evaluate: Some decisions necessitate educating and informing your stakeholders. You will need to determine who will be impacted by the decision, how much information you need to share, and how to disseminate the information. Monitor your decision to determine if the results you are getting are the results you anticipated. If they aren’t, then you have to adjust your plan.
Once you make a decision, it is important that you monitor it. For example, let’s say that based on the request of the building leaders, you decided during the two superintendent’s conference days, that the school principals could plan sessions for their teachers.
How will you monitor that decision to ensure it was the right decision for your district, schools, principals, teachers, and staff?
How can you guarantee that the time is well-spent, productive, and efficient?
Getting data on the sessions will be critical in determining if this is a decision that you feel comfortable sticking with for the following year.
Using the same example, it’s possible as the day gets closer, the principals aren’t instilling confidence in you that it will be successful. This is not the time to second guess yourself. If you went through the IDECIDE steps, you made the best decision you could with the information that you had.
Finally, learn from the process. Not every decision will require a time-consuming decision process. IDECIDE can go pretty quickly for minor decisions. With regard to more complex problems, this method can take more time and effort to arrive at a successful decision. In these instances, it is good to conduct a post-decision analysis to see how the decision impacted the organization and the stakeholders.
This is an excerpt of the book So You Want to Be a Superintendent? Become the Leader You Were Meant to Be! Download the book free here.
In love, friendship and leadership,