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Leaders - Making Good Decisions, Every Time

Updated: Jun 4, 2023

Making decisions can be among the most complex parts of leading a team. And when you add the increased pressure of production deadlines and all the challenges that can arise from start to finish, it can even be paralyzing.

With the current manufacturing challenges, such as deadlines, controlling waste, staffing, and competition, the pressure can be constant for today's leaders. As a result, I often find myself using the Cowboy strategy: making a quick decision in the heat of the moment just to get things moving forward. This strategy is rooted in the thinking that the faster we act to resolve the problem issue, the sooner we can resume production. Conversely, a lengthy rumination may show your lack of control and urgency. Upper management may frown upon this lack of decisiveness and frustrate your team. These types of pressures are enough to make anyone resort to snap decisions. Because of this, my rushed decisions created errors that led us backward.

What should happen? There are a few key variables that you should consider when tasked with making a decision, and they are as follows:

1. Pause and take a step back.

2. How much time do you have to make this decision?

3. What resources are available to help me make the decision?

Let's take a look at this process in a manufacturing example.

You are managing a manufacturing line. You find that you have some defective products, and now you're not sure how long you have been producing this defect before it's sealed in boxes at the end of the manufacturing line. Once you have been made aware of the error, you are asked, "What do we do?"

Take a step back. Rookie leaders often feel they need to move in proportion to the speed of everything around them. Don't do this! Don't let someone else's excitement or the excitement of the situation push you to make a rash decision. Instead, take that step back to gain the broader scope needed to see the bigger picture.

How much time do you have to make the decision? You don't want to rush into a 5-second decision when you have 24 hours to make the same decision. So knowing your available time is critical.

What are my resources to help make the decision? These can be anything from a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to the knowledge of personnel in your team. Anything or anyone that can provide valuable information about the situation and help determine your path forward.

Now that you have your plan, let's run through it.

When confronted with the "What do we do" scenario, you step back and observe. You look over all the variables and discuss them with the involved personnel. You assess that your available time to make this decision is 12 hours, as the product can only be in process for that time frame before it goes bad. You have gathered the information about the situation and know your available time. Now let's utilize your resources. You discuss options with experienced operators and include Quality Assurance (QA). The information you brought forward creates an "If This Then That" discussion to determine the best path forward. As a result, it becomes a unified decision and likely the best one you could have made at that time. Even if something goes wrong, which is always possible, a group failure is always better than an individual failure. An individual failure can easily result from the Cowboy/Cowgirl strategy. With the above steps, you help avoid rash decisions and be more consistent in making well-informed decisions every time.

Recap: take a step back, determine your available time, and utilize your resources. I was shown this process, and it has worked wonders over the years, and I hope this strategy will do the same for you.

What strategies do you use to help guide you to make the right decision when the pressure is on? Share below in the comments section to benefit the entire Sigmasmith community.

Thanks for reading.

Rick V.


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