Avoid Common Decision-Making Mistakes

ISO 9001:2000, clause 5.6.3, states the output of a management review must include any “decisions” made to improve the results of the system, its processes, and the product, as well as, any “decisions” made on resource needs. However, management often makes mistakes when faced with decisions.

Caruth and Handlogten, in their “Decisions, Decisions” article in the December 2003 issue of Quality Digest, identified 12 common decision-making mistakes. I have summarized these mistakes below:

1. Failure to recognize a problem

Managers may be too busy with day-to-day operations to recognize the problems. Or, they may be resigned to the way the system works and not take responsibility. If plans and schedules are not being met, management must take action.

2. Incorrect problem determination

Symptoms are often mistaken for real problems. Effects are often confused with causes. Why? Because they are more obvious. Dealing with the wrong problem is a bad decision and will likely result in an unsatisfactory solution. Identify the real problem and its causes.

3. Insufficient consideration of alternatives

There may be several possible solutions for a problem. Not thinking through the alternatives exposes management to the risk of overlooking a sound, practical solution. Making decisions requires careful thought, as well as, investigation beyond the obvious.

4. Inadequate evaluation of risk

Failure to evaluate the risk associated with a decision may result in a high-cost, complex solution. Reduce the risk by considering alternatives and properly training employees on the solution.

5. Repetitive decisions

Recurring problems may result in similar decisions being made on a case-by-case basis. Implementing new policies and procedures may offer a better solution.

6. Unnecessary decisions

Don’t rush to judgment. If the problem isn’t expected to get worse, the best action may be to simply watch and wait. Monitor the situation and take action if further developments merit it.

7. Delayed Decisions

Fast decisions, not snap decisions, offer two advantages. First, management will have more time to correct the situation if the original decision proves to be wrong. Second, management can move on to other problems that need attention.

8. Lack of follow-up

Management must monitor the problem areas to see if the solutions are producing the desired results. Some decisions may not be as effective as first believed.

9. Ignoring input from others

Failing to seek input from others is a crucial error, especially from employees involved in performing the work. Those closest to the problem may have the best ideas.
10. Using the same solutions to solve different problems

Applying people and money is not the solution to every problem. Different problems need different solutions. Avoid pre-conceived notions of how to solve problems.
11. Insufficient data collection

Making decisions based on limited information may result in unsatisfactory solutions. Ensure sufficient facts are available for intelligent decisions.

12. Shooting from the hip

Snap decisions are usually poor decisions that create more problems. Don’t be too hasty and miss the mark. Learn from past mistakes.

The Quality Digest article says good decisions are rarely praised, while poor decisions may create legends. However, we know that quality management systems based on ISO 9001 will provide evidence of management’s good decisions through the achievement of quality objectives and continual improvement.