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Tough Decision Making

Decision making is a vital part of leadership, especially in challenging times. Leaders are tasked with crucial choices that significantly impact the workforce, operations and ultimately, the business’ viability.

Thanks to COVID-19, the challenges of decision making are intensified by the need for immediate decisive action. Time is compressed, and decision making is urgent.

Here are a few tips to help you in the decision-making process during this time:

It’s an imperfect, but necessary process

It’s very difficult to have a full and accurate picture of what’s going on during a crisis. You will not have all of the information. You will not be able to manage all of the variables.  A colleague shared her recent experience laying off 10% of the company’s workforce. Once the company’s services were deemed “non-essential” the leadership team sprang into action. Within days, the leadership team made a series of tough choices, came up with a layoff plan and executed the plan. They took action so quickly, that the full details of some of SBA programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program, hadn’t been released. Had the details of those programs been available, leadership may have taken a different course of action.

Which leads me to the next point; When making decisions in this environment, sometimes you’re going to make what turns out to be very sound, smart decisions. Other times you will make decisions that later seem hurried or ill-advised. According to the Harvard Business Review, “In a chaotic context like this, searching for the right answers would be pointless. No manageable patterns exist, only turbulence.”

In current conditions, your role as the leaders is to first and foremost act to establish order, not to make the perfect, “right” decision. Taking action during this time is vital in providing some direction for your company and your teams. If you’re going to keep your lights on and keep your teams employed, you must be able to respond effectively to changing conditions.

The old ways won’t work

The weightier the decision, the more time, research and perspective we need to make the decision. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom in “normal times.” If you’re considering rolling out a new product, you do the research to see the cost involved. You conduct the market research to ensure there’s a need. You make sure that your internal systems have the capability to manage the product. You work with different departments to gain perspective and expertise, then you decide whether or not to move forward.

Such a process is a luxury in this environment.

One company, a traditional retail operation, had been thinking about adding an online store to their offerings for years, but their retail operation was so successful, that the online store kept getting pushed back. And then, just a few weeks ago, all of the stores had to shut down because they’re “non-essential.” In a few short days the leadership team decided to accelerate the opening of the online store. The lengthy research and analysis they would have ordinarily engaged in was dramatically reduced. Instead of launching in months, they reallocated resources and retrained teams to launch in a few weeks.

Look for new opportunities:

Yes, tough situations like the one we’re in now are stressful and challenging. However, these situations also bring opportunities. You just have to seek them out and act.

A promotional company specializing in signage recognized the opportunity to help their clients when local restaurants began to close their lobbies. The owner of the company knew that the restaurants would benefit from having new signage that indicated that takeout and delivery was still available. So he went to work contacting all of his restaurant owner clients to suggest new signage message. Before he knew it, nearly all of the clients had purchased new signs and new customers who had heard the idea began calling with their orders too.

Another company saw an opportunity when they’re biggest competitor began laying off production staff.  The hiring manager and the COO agreed that they could help these newly laid-off people and potentially grow their market share in the process. They quickly made calls and were able to hire several of those individuals.

For other ideas on decision making, leadership and company culture, please contact Pathfinder Strategies at 888-529-0240 or at

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