How to… make decisions under pressure

 

So the first few rugby results are in — some wins, some losses, lots of emotions and as ever, plenty of people who have an opinion about the decisions made and not made. 

Added on 01 October 2015 by John Neal

Rugby crowd cheering

It is interesting to reflect upon some of the reactions to these decisions from the first few weeks of the world cup. Where the decisions resulted in a positive outcome, the decisions were perceived as brave, creative and courageous.  Where the decisions led to a negative outcome, they were seen as a reflection of poor coaching and a lack of leadership.  Both these reactions are emotionally driven and affected by the outcome of the decision — and that's a great shame.

Decisions are made in the moment and without the benefit of hindsight.  The decision is neither right nor wrong at the time it is made. The decision has consequential outcomes, which in all truth are determined by an array of other external factors, such as the execution of the decision, the ability of the opposition and the subjective opinion of a referee.

Decisions are decisions and should not be analysed with hindsight and never without an understanding of the circumstances and pressures under which those decision were made. What is more, the decisions are also often judged by people who are unlikely to ever be in a situation where they would have to make a similar decision themselves...so sports supporters please note, supporters should support their team rather that slam the captain, the players and support team if it does not go the way you want! The clue is in the name — supporters!

So how can these lessons be applied to the business world?  In fact the parallels are clear and obvious.

Business decisions often have to be made under the pressures of time and customer demands, without all the relevant data, by people who are stressed and tired and who may be in fear of the possible outcomes.

So here are some top tips for decision making under pressure in business and in sport:

  • Analyse, test and re-test your decision making process
  • Understand, discuss and agree what is the purpose of the team or the company and always bear this in mind at the point of the decision being made
  • Keep it as simple as possible... too much data can be confusing
  • Practice making decisions under pressure and then review the decision-making process in depth... alter and adapt the process where required
  • Use "What if" scenarios to practice and refine the decision making process.
  • Where possible, reduce the pressure on the decision maker and create support systems around them
  • Share the decision-making process where possible, especially where those responsible for delivering against the decision are involved.
  • Protect decision-makers from those who like to accuse and blame and are likely to respond to the outcome of the decision with anger.

But keep making decisions... without them we stagnate!