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Consulting Society Finds Leadership Decision Making Underwhelming

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC®) had asked its global membership to comment on the difficulties of decision making in modern organizations, and how to deal with rallying support, reversing decisions, and other key issues. SAC CEO Alan Weiss, PhD states, "Here is a quick synopsis representing members' clients. The process of decision making is probably THE most commone and THE most poorly executive management responsibility on a daily basis.

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a talent management and leadership coaching firm in San Francisco, California.  He offers a few insights:

 “Decision making is a critical function in our personal and professional lives. None of us would be in positions of authority without demonstrated abilities to discern issues and make good choices. Our reputations and livelihoods depend on it. Each day, however, intelligent people make mistakes, with devastating consequences. Neuroscientists and experts in decision making now understand more about how the brain works, and how we are sometimes prone to faulty thinking when faced with a set of circumstances that require a decision.

“At every stage of the decision-making process, misperceptions, faulty assumptions and other mind tricks can influence the choices we make. Highly complex and important decisions are the most likely to be distorted because they involve the most assumptions, depend on estimates, and receive more input from myriad people. Normally, when an influential person makes an error of judgment, the decision process will bring the error to light. Other people with different views will challenge the flawed thinking. The facts will be exposed, erroneous views corrected and bad decisions reversed.”

Lisa Anderson, a senior operations and supply chain executive and president of LMA Consulting Group, Inc. notes, “In my experience in working with companies across multiple industries and globally, the need to reverse a decision arises frequently. I’ve found the best process to reverse the decision while maintaining credibility to be the following: 1) Communicate the new decision or direction.  2) Address the fact that this is a different course of action and provide the overriding reasons, such as new, key information that has come to light integral to the decision. 3) Rally the team around the new decision by discussing a few benefits, next steps or whatever is most appropriate to the audience. When handled effectively, people respect the leader even more for correcting course and communicating it effectively.” 

"We do this so often without examining the 'batting average' of decision makers, that it's like a team sport where no one is keeping score," concludes Weiss.

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