“How many of you here have been on a training programme or read a book about Decision Making?” This was a question posed by a presenter on leadership impact at a business breakfast in Durban’s International Conference Centre to an impressive audience of over 500 people. The few hands that appeared in the huge auditorium prompted her to exclaim incredulously, “I have had that same poor response from all the audiences in which I have asked that question… and yet it is the single biggest requirement of management!”

It appears to be one of the modern paradoxes that in spite of our lack of competence and confidence in making decisions, we continue to make them anyway! And the results are haphazard. Research indicates that up to 60% of executives say that their business Decision Making has a 50% success rate. It is common knowledge that up to 83% of mergers and acquisitions fail to create value for shareholders. How do we explain why 40% of senior managers are pushed out, fail or quit within 18 months? On a personal front why do we struggle to choose the right relationships or continue to get work-life balance so wrong? Is it not amazing that the majority of us are happy to continue making decisions in everything we do, without a thorough understanding of the complexities of Decision Making and the impact of our own personal influences and behavioural traps on the quality of Decision Making!

For some strange reason, we digest everything else about the art and practice of leadership but ignore one of our critical competencies – decision making. The irony is that our hit rate and track record in decision making is distinctly ordinary and many organisations report a crisis of confidence in their managements’ decision making ability.

However, we believe that Catalyst Consulting has developed something that is both special and beneficial that will bridge the skills and knowledge gap in this important management practice. We are very excited about the response we have had to a new learning solution in critical thinking and decision making that is an extremely practical and designed in collaborative and action learning.  But we need to backtrack as to how this all came about….

Our journey in building a learning solution in Decision Making capability started with a fascinating trigger. Over eighteen months ago we had an interesting meeting with two MD’s from one of our biggest global clients, with whom we had been working closely over the last six years in implementing strategic change management, leadership development and talent management throughout their organisation.

They were expressing their concerns and exasperations regarding the general quality and variability of Decision Making throughout their business units. There was a tendency either to defer decisions upwards, avoid collaborating where required or make reactive decisions which had to be damage controlled! Although they each look after different regions in the world (Africa/Europe and South East Asia/China), their anecdotes and experiences had an uncanny similarity. The result of this conversation and further sharing of ideas on Decision Making, was a joint design team to develop a program to bridge the gap in their company in critical thinking and Decision Making. Whilst the original brief seemed simple – “fast track our managers through a training programme in effective Decision Making” – the complexity of the subject provoked us to design a learning approach that would address the following key questions:

  • How does one create a culture of effective Decision Making within an organisation?
  • What clear framework, skillsets and mindset shift will enhance the quality of Decision Making?
  • How can we heighten people’s awareness regarding their personal influences on Decision Making – biases, emotions, over-confidence, narrow framing etc.?
  • How can we promote a collaborative approach to Decision Making that ensures greater engagement, involvement and synergies of the process and ownership of the outcome?

The simple analysis of this training need resulted in a provocative challenge to Debbie and I to appraise the domain of Decision making with a critical eye and blend our consulting and design expertise with the client’s world of business reality – and come up with a learning process and skills program that really works. The result of the pilot workshop held in December last year was an extremely positive assessment from all participants and the subsequent approval being provided from a Global forum for us to launch a ‘train the trainer” workshop to select Line managers representing different international regions of the Group – to cascade the workshop throughout its structures.

For more information regarding how we evolved our action learning approach to this important topic and the design of the Catalyst WISE Decision Making framework and toolkit, read more about it in our recently published article “Creating a culture of effective decision making” on our website. The article tracks this interesting journey but more importantly shines the spotlight on Decision Making as a complex, yet key differentiator and competency for leaders and managers, within their turbulent business environment.