Decision making, according to BusinessDictionary, is the thought process of selecting a logical choice from the available options. Business owners make important decisions every day…who to hire or fire, how to set prices, how to select vendors, and more.
Some decisions sound wise when they’re made but turn out to have unintended negative consequences.
How can you prevent this from happening?
Take the case of Walmart and its announcement earlier this year that it would terminate all of its “people greeters.” The decision to end this position in more than 1,000 Walmart stores was likely done to save money (Walmart said the reason is increased retail competition). Fair enough.
Then the stories in the media began to unfold about specific greeters, many of whom are disabled or elderly and have been in their position for many years. Greeters are being replaced by “customer hosts,” who can check receipts and shopping carts and have the ability to lift 25 pounds and climb a ladder.
While Walmart has promised to find other positions for the former greeters, the public relations hit from the terminations likely will outweigh the cost savings from the job eliminations. This is clearly an example of unintended negative consequences.
If you want to avoid unintended negative consequences from business decisions to the extent possible, you need to take a measured approach to business decisions. You can’t just “shoot from the hip.”
- Use a decision-making model to systematize the process. You can find 5 models here. All models require you to do analysis, which means you must gather the facts and then assess them.
- Take your time (assuming it’s not an emergency situation). This will give you time for reflection on the decision before you implement it.
- Get feedback. If you’re the primary or sole decision maker, your vision may be biased or uninformed. Have others weigh in to help you see the bigger picture.
- Document everything. Keep notes of who, what, where, when, and why you made the decision. This can be helpful in case there is push-back. For example, say you make the decision to fire an employee who then sues you for discrimination or wrongful termination. Having the notes on the employee’s conduct, warnings to the employee, etc., can be helpful in having a good resolution to the lawsuit.
You have to trust your instincts when making decisions. But don’t be reckless or act before you have all the information necessary to make good decisions.
Barbara Weltman is the founder of Big Ideas for Small Business, Inc., which publishes Idea of the Day. She is the author of J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes 2019 and other books that inform the small business community of tax, financial, and legal information they should know about.