Effectively negotiating decisions is a key part of excelling as a project manager. With every hesitation or delayed response, the risk of losing out on unique opportunities or creating even more problems seems to multiply.
This is why taking time to learn how to improve decision-making skills is so important.
But how can project managers and other business professionals enhance this skill set?
And more importantly, why is it so critical to prioritize decision-making development in the first place?
Why improve decision-making?
Beyond project management, your enhanced skills can:
- Prompt tangible results and positive business impact
- Help avoid costly and dangerous business mistakes
- Enable you to solve problems quickly and efficiently
- Foster a collaborative work environment
- Clarify communication among stakeholders
- Resolve issues proactively before they become problematic
Further developing decision-making skills is also imperative to advancing your career in the future.
9 ways to strengthen decision-making
Let’s look at some of the different strategies you can use to strengthen your decision-making skills.
1. Start with a plan
If you know there’s going to be a critical decision to make in the near future, plan for it. Your initial plan doesn’t need to be overly complicated or detailed - just a strategy to move forward. For example, if you're asked to start a project next week, account for the time and resources needed now to ensure the tasks can be incorporated into your workflow without disrupting existing projects. This will help you identify priorities and honor deadlines.
2. Set deadlines for yourself
Project managers are accustomed to establishing deadlines for other people, but it’s important to consider your own personal time limitations as well. Don’t leave yourself too much of a buffer for decision-making. The more time you allow, the greater likelihood of decision paralysis, the type of overthinking that impedes a course of action within its natural timeframe.
Of course, the deadlines you set should correlate with the importance of the decision. Naturally, you should allow for more time when making decisions that would have a greater impact on the business. Whatever deadline you set, strive to stick to it.
3. Narrow down your choices
The difficulty in decision-making often comes down to the number of choices you have. It’s overwhelming to make a decision when there are many options, so prioritize narrowing possible solutions down so you can focus on assessing only the best ones. Interestingly, when working with fewer choices, you also become much more likely to follow through.
4. Seek outsiders’ opinions
Gaining additional insight to ensure the soundness of a decision is a key part of the process, especially if you are lacking the necessary subject-matter expertise. This also requires you to balance urgency with mindfulness to know whose input will enhance a decision’s quality. Seek out the stakeholders who are invested in your cause.
Differences of opinion invite a fresh perspective only attainable from others. Getting an outside opinion can validate the decisions you’re finalizing while also strengthening your confidence in decision-making.
5. Weigh your options carefully
As previously stated, some decisions require more careful contemplation and in-depth analysis. When you need to weigh your options carefully, consider comparing them visually using a pros-and-cons list or a venn diagram. Viewing your options in a structured format like this may inspire even better ideas.
As the final decision-maker, it’s your responsibility to understand each option thoroughly. Your final choice might come down to its cost, its benefits suggested by the data, or its potential for success. Each choice leads to its own outcome. Choose accordingly.
6. Assert control over the process
One of the core responsibilities of business leaders is to set the tone for the decision-making process. You’ll need to lead discussions and encourage participation. Note that even the best ideas and decision-making can be derailed by unforeseen meeting discussions or misguided team priorities. But with prompt course correction and follow-up communication, you can resolve any major issues while maintaining deadlines.
7. Look to the past
When learning how to improve your decision-making skills, take note of your past choices. Previous decisions are insightful when considering new options. Looking to the past is a constructive way to check your self-interests and personal biases as well.
Ask yourself: which previous decision shares pertinent characteristics with this current situation? Rely on the value of past experience for wisdom today.
8. Use a decision-making template
Whatever strategy you use in your decision-making, there will always be a lot to consider. Biases and emotions can easily complicate the process, especially once stakeholders get involved. A decision-making template can be useful for addressing the various complicated choices you face in your role.
A visual collaboration platform like Lucidspark can simplify this process. Lucidspark offers many templates that will help you visualize your decisions, like our Decision-making matrix, which allows you to assign quantitative values to assessment factors for each option. This enables you to take a more systematic and logical approach to the most important factors in the decision-making process.
9. Try out Visual Activities
Visual Activities take traditional templates one step further by engaging your team in a dynamic activity that turns qualitative feedback into actionable insights. With both prioritization and categorization activities, participants can achieve consensus simply by viewing results. Visual Activities take the guesswork out of decision-making by grouping data visually at the click of a button—and it only takes seconds.
As a trusted team leader, it’s important to know how to make the right decisions in a timely manner. With dedication and practice, you can level up your decision-making skills in no time.
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Lucidspark, a cloud-based virtual whiteboard, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This cutting-edge digital canvas brings teams together to brainstorm, collaborate, and consolidate collective thinking into actionable next steps—all in real time. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidspark.com.