Making Decisions as Organizational Leaders

Posted by Matthew Thomas

matthew-thomas-2Several news outlets recently published excerpts from a Q&A session with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. In the Q&A, he explained why he wears the same gray t-shirt every day. As the Telegraph states:

Mr Zuckerberg said he owns multiple versions of the same T-shirt, as clothing, along with breakfast, is a "silly" decision he doesn't want to spend too long making. He is also too busy looking after the world's largest social network.

"I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community. (Article here.)

This sounds very similar to the now-famous Michael Lewis interview of US President Barack Obama where he describes how he only wears blue or gray suits in order to reduce unnecessary decisions, since he has to make so many more important decisions, and decisions can be fatiguing (and distracting: the one time he wore a tan suit, the Internet nearly exploded).

A_Leaders_Primary_ResponsibilityAs leaders, more than anything else, our job is to make decisions. Making decisions takes emotional and mental time and energy. Spending time and energy on making the right decisions, the truly important decisions, can propel us forward. The trick is that decisions themselves have a cost (as explained in this now three-year-old article from the New York Times), and so spending time making lots of little (less important) decisions reduces one's capacity to make the bigger ones. This can tip us to one side or the other of the Tao of Action-Reflection: by causing us to decide without thinking, or to paralyze ourselves into inaction. 

Now, I'm still the type of person who likes to make some of these more minor decisions about daily attire myself, but I know that we have to limit our decisions to what will best impact our goals. Therefore, many organizational leaders:

1. Routinize minor decisions, so they don't pull from the energy we need for the important ones.

2. Set aside time to plan, so we aren't making so many decisions in the moment.

3. Make the most important decisions when we are fresh.

4. Pace decisions so we can pause and refresh periodically.

5. Reduce outside stress so we have more focused energy. 

6. Delegate decisions outside of their core responsibility to others.

Which of those six do you find the most effective? The most difficult? What would you add? We would like to hear about your experiences.

Tao of action-reflection, primer on process


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Topics: leadership, Barak Obama, Matthew Thomas, organizational decision making, decisions, Zuckerberg