Organisations get in the way of decision-making

2005

Senior managers in the UK are frustrated by the inability of their organisations to reach or act on decisions and feel hindered from doing their jobs, a new study has found.

Research published by the Chartered Management Institute found that managers were confident in their own ability to make key decisions but felt they faced constant hurdles in the shape of pressure from colleagues, bureaucracy and a lack of resources.

The survey of 615 senior executives also identified the key characteristics that made good decision-makers and highlighted how the UK's senior managers make up their minds.

Key frustrations included a lack of support, cited by four out of 10 senior managers, who said they had taken a decision against their better judgement in the past six months.

Reasons for this included coming under undue pressure from colleagues (one in five) and lack of time to consider problems carefully (15 per cent).

A further 14 per cent blamed poor decisions on bureaucracy and 13 per cent cited a lack of resources.

Nine out of 10 managers said they were confident about their own decision-making abilities.

Many recognised the need to consult others, with 78 per cent consulting their team and 48 per cent with stakeholders.

The results, said the CMI, demonstrated that managers preferred to make decisions based on rational analysis, with just 21 per cent admitting to relying on "gut feelings".

Asked what characteristics made good decision-makers, the top three answers given were experience (50 per cent), logical thinking (47 per cent) and objectivity (45 per cent).

Just seven per cent claimed intuition was an essential character trait, with more than a third (39 per cent) suggesting that active listening was vital.

Just under half of those polled – 45 per cent – believed they were better equipped to make decisions because of their management status.

But, signalling they understood the importance of experience, 70 per cent suggested that training had influenced their ability.

A total of 43 per cent said they have gained confidence from international experience and 64 per cent from undertaking development programmes.

Jo Causon, CMI director of marketing and corporate affairs, said: "Decisions are a key part of any manager's day-to-day activities, but they are not easy and people need to be prepared and informed in order to make them correctly.

"The last thing anyone should do is leave decisions to chance, because of the potential damage that can be done to productivity, morale and the bottom line," she added.

When it came to making decisions, tips included remaining objective, realising that decisions impacted on those around you and considering the effects on colleagues or team members before making your mind up.

Managers should not necessarily opt for the easy way out, but should consider the issue from the point of view of what will work best for them.

It was also important to take your time, as too many people believed they had to make up their mind quickly, suggested the CMI.

A fast decision was unlikely to keep the pressure off. Instead, it was often a good idea to allow yourself time to weigh up the risks and assess all the options, in which case you were more likely to reach a conclusion based on clear, considered arguments.

Finally, it was always a good idea to communicate your decision, outlining clearly what you expect from people.

"They are unlikely to know why you want things done a certain way unless you tell them," recommended the institute.

"So explain your reasons and make sure colleagues understand them. If you don't do that, the likelihood of others accepting your decision is greatly reduced," it added.