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Leaders - Making Good Decisions, Every Time

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

Making decisions can easily be one of the hardest 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, waste control, staffing, and competition, the pressure can be constant for today's leaders. As a result, I often found myself using the Cowboy strategy. This is where you make a quick decision in the heat of the moment in order to gets things back to moving forward. This is influenced by thinking that the sooner we get back in motion with production, the better resolved the issue will be, and that the longer we take, the lack of control and sense of urgency we are showing. This lack of urgency may be frowned upon by upper management or even your own team. These types of pressures are enough to make anyone resort to quick decisions. Because of this, my rushed decisions created errors that led us backwards.

What should happen? There are a few key variables that can be considered when you’re 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 are my resources to help 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. The defect is brought to your attention, and of course you are asked, “What do we do?”

Take a step back. Rookie leaders move in proportion with 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. Take that step back so that you can gain the wider 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. Knowing your available time is key.

What are my resources to help make the decision? This can be anything from a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to personnel in your team. This resource can be 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.

You’re approached with the “What do we do” scenario. You take a step back. This gives you a chance to look over the variables and discuss them with the involved personnel. You find out 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 gathered the information about the situation and have your available time. Now let's reach out to your resources. You discuss options with experienced operators and also include Quality Assurance (QA). With the information that you brought forward; it 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 that you could have made at that time. Even if something goes wrong, which is always possible, a group fail is always better than the individual. The individual failure can easily be the outcome of the Cowboy/Cowgirl strategy. With the above steps, you help avoid quick decisions and be more consistent in making good decisions every time.

Recap: take a step back, determine your available time, and utilize your available resources. This process was given to me and has worked wonders over the years, and I hope that it will do the same for you.

What are some strategies that you use to help get you through making the right decision when the pressure is on? Share below in the comments section to benefit you as well as the Sigmasmith community.

Thanks for reading.

Rick V.


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