Quick Decisions – how much time is enough?

What’s the rush?

The pressure is on. Everyone wants an instant response and quick decisions.

“Why do you need to deliberate?”

“Haven’t you made your mind up yet?”

“What’s wrong with you? Are you weak, poorly informed or incompetent?”

“Surely you know all about this already. Your people have seen it.”

“No-one else has objected.”

“We need to go now or we will miss the boat.”

What’s the worst that can happen? (Good question)

What is the adage?

Decisions are made in haste and regretted at leisure

Decision Analysis

When we analyse decision types for decision-making governance design we look at how the attributes of a decision change with time. For example:

  • How much time is required to evaluate the options and do an evidence-based selection, and;
  • The time available, within which the decision can actually add any value. I have seen hiring decisions made too late for example.


If Time Required < Time Available – we at least have a chance to design a process that will improve the decision outcome.

But if Time Required > Time Available we are in the world of making decisions with ‘sparse data’.

Maybe this is one way to define a quick decision?


Strategies for quick decisions

So, if we need a quick decision we can look at a range of strategies to fill in the ‘data gaps’. For example we can:

  • Simulate – build, test and calibrate models to synthesise the ‘missing data’ fast.
  • Create a fast access path to ‘Experts’ whose opinions can fill the gap.
  • Reframe the decision to remove need for the data which is sparse. Typically involves prior agreement of a set of constraints that can be used to make the decision less ‘global’.
  • Automate – create a set of ‘rules’ that can be applied, very fast, to the sparse data that is available and use governance controls to limit risk exposure (e.g. trading systems)

My favourite of these is to design an ‘Expert Instant Voting mechanism’. We collapse the investment approval functions of a ‘board’ (which should contain the broad interests and wide range of experience and knowledge to support high quality decision-making) into an instant voting system. It enables a very small number of experts to be polled for a binary decision in minutes. At its simplest this is an e-mail thread. If all the principle decision-makers say ‘yes’ it can be done in under a minute. For this to work well rules have to be designed and behaviours put in place to support it. And the scope of this has to be quite well defined so we can use governance to protect the business from being broken by its top experts.

Or can we just slow down?

Do we really need to make a quick decision?

Are we certain that we need to ‘decide-now’ and that we are not just seeking the gratification and relief of ‘decision made’.

Can we take a series of ‘interim decisions’ and adopt a more agile approach? This may reduce the up-side gain but may also limits the down-side risk (e.g. feeding investment funds into the market over time and not all at once).


Key point: If you want to be better at making quick decisions – do some analysis and put in place some decision-support strategies before the next ‘quick decision’ is put in front of you.

Link to cover picture

Happy rainy days


, , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply