LEARNING FROM FAILURE IN DECISION-MAKING (SBBPost02:1/3/21)

“You are an energetic young man. This will be your first hand experience in swimming. Do not wait for others to come. Jump and take charge.”

No sooner had the trainee executive obeyed my command and jumped into the swimming pool, than I realised that he did not know how to swim. He started struggling with his untrained hands to float. I was at a lost what to do. As luck would have it, the pool supervisor came running and rescued him from being drowned.

We were staying at a hotel for executive training programme. The hotel management offered complementary practice sessions on swimming. As per the plan decided by the swimming instructor, a batch of 10 executives were to report at the pool at the scheduled time. While I was relaxing at the pool side, I saw an executive coming towards the pool. Since the instructor was not there and the pool was empty that time I thought the trainee would be able to float on the water and practice. He was a person with a good physique and wore a rough and tough persona. Therefore, I was confident he would be able to swim.

It was a blunder. First, a careless decision on my part to take the role of a swimming pool instructor. The consequences of such a decision should have been thought before the instruction was given. The water level of the pool was full that day. Luckily, the instructor came to his rescue in time.

Second, the trainee executive should not have acted on the decision as he did not have experience of swimming. The executive was blindly following the instruction by taking the risk of life. People sometimes follow the instruction of the superior without  assessing whether the decision is implementable or not. 

It was the height of embarrassment for me that day in my life and I learnt a  great lesson. Thought came to me later that if similar decision was taken by an army or police officer, commanding a group of people during operations, it would have resulted in serious failures and loss of lives. 

In retrospect, I realised that there is no short cut in life and no bypassing the system. There is always a gradual process of learning, exploring life and gaining experience. Making people over dependence is also not a good practice. One needs to be extra careful in taking decisions as the situation demands. What I learnt that wrong decisions may lead to:

  • lose of one’s credibility and reliability.
  • lose of confidence and dependability of team members.
  • loss of time and money.
  • risk of people’s lives. 

However, this little incident taught me a lesson to consider few aspects before taking decisions in my professional life. Some of the thoughts that came to my mind that time were:

  • It is essential to think critically applying one’s mind before taking decision.
  • decision must be taken after giving a thoughtful consideration of its impact.
  • it is the ultimate responsibility of the person, taking any decision, for its consequences.
  • decisions need to be taken keeping in view the capabilities of the person(s) who will implement the decision. 
  • The implementer needs to understand its importance, relevance, appropriateness and the abilities to execute the work as per decision. 

In the later stage of my professional life, during my MBA course, we were taught about the theoretical perspective on decision-making. My teacher highlighted the following aspects:

> Decision is an outcome of mental process leading to the selection of a course of action.

> Decision is a firmed action of choosing the best alternative.

> Programmed and non-programmed decisions are the two types of decisions.

> Routine decisions are programmed. Non-programmed decisions are one-shot and non-structured type.

We were taught that the most significant elements of decision-making constitute the process of:

  • identifying the problem
  • understanding the goals
  • assessing relevant alternatives
  • making the right choice of alternative. 

It is essential to take appropriate alternative by considering the following factors: 

  • authority factor
  • human factor
  • physical factor
  • technological factor 
  • economic factor.

What I learnt from the above points theoretically, my little experience from the cited incident taught me more on the need for assessing whether a particular decision is implementable or not. Similarly, The capabilities of the person(s) are also to be understood before giving decision. What remained embedded in my mind from that experience is that I should consider all aspects throughly before taking any decision in the future.

Further, I would like to share experiences on two aspects of decision-making. One, the habit of taking decision regularly for day-to-day work. Second, the habit of not taking any decision. That means, the habit of keeping matters pending for long and waiting for a solution with the passage of time.

There are instances of people who give values to the collective decision-making  process. Whenever the team members find that certain decisions taken by the superior officer are not implementable, they take up the same with the decision-maker immediately. In such cases, with relevant inputs from others, values get added to the decisions collectively made. People always come up with something new, something more relevant and something their collective conscience suggests.

Another aspect on decision-making is about the practice of not taking decision by people in organisations. We all agree that taking timely decision is expected from an executive. I remember few instances of indecisiveness by key managerial personnel in organisations. Realistically, people in the department know about the work habits of their superiors and react accordingly. 

I would like to cite the instances of a person who was in the habit of keeping work pending for long. Whenever the juniors pursued the cases, the senior officer used to send back the file with the instruction to re-submit the draft proposal with certain changes.  This process continued number of times. The officer had the habit of modifying the draft over and over again. In fact, the officer had the habit of reacting and reversing the draft, forgetting that the correction in the earlier draft was made by him only. The dealing executives, knowing about this habit of the officer, used to take the draft earlier corrected by the officer and showed him at the right time. Ultimately, the officer had to feel embarrassment.

We all know that such habits are un-productive and raise the level of frustration amongst employees. In fact, if no decision is taken it amounts to a decision only. The failure to take decision is a weakness. Similarly, wrong decision also impacts the people. Ultimately, the work suffers and it adds up to loss of time, money, manpower and resources. 

The need is to sharpen the abilities to take effective decision. The need is to enhance one’s capability to take right decision at the right time. The need is to learn from failures on any wrong decision taken in the past and work on it to improve upon the quality of applying one’s minds effectively. The need is to learn from other’s experience. This is the power that can be articulated over a period of time. 

Remember, the joy of success for making effective decision takes people to a different height. The joy of collective decision-making and sharing responsibility is a feel good factor. The ultimate joy is the ability to take right decisions on the well-being of people and share happiness.  The joy of sharing mutual values is a great feeling. It gives enormous joy of living one’s life.

I conclude with a quote, “If you shoot an arrow, chances are that it may miss the target. If you say a word, you can not take it back.”

Published by concord0084

Management Centre offers Management Consultancy.

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