Proper decision-making eludes executives

Abundant data and the need for speed are two characteristics of our time. Given that, do modern managers usually make quick, high-quality decisions? Not according to a study by Kepner-Tregoe, a management consultancy based in Princeton, N.J.

“Despite the existence of more and better information than ever before, time pressure prevents decision makers from gathering all that they need and from sharing it,” according to Peter Tobia, author of Decision Making in the Digital Age: Challenges and Responses, which Kepner-Tregoe released in December 2000.

Surprisingly, a majority of the survey’s respondents contradicted the conventional wisdom about information overload, saying that more and better data is actually a good thing. Rather, it’s the age-old problems of organizational politics, lack of agreement on objectives and changing priorities that keep decision making in the Dark Ages.

“The survey shows that there is a cultural lag between sophisticated technology and the ability of the manager to take advantage of it,” says Tobia, Kepner-Tregoe’s director of business issues research. To make full use of IT’s data gathering and sorting capability, Tobia recommends that companies institute a shared, systematic approach to decision making.

In which areas has the emphasis on fast decision making caused the quality of decisions to decline? The 479 managers who responded to the study pointed to the following areas:

Personnel/HR: 27 per cent

Budgeting/finance: 24 per cent

Organizational structuring: 22 per cent

Quality/productivity: 20 per cent

IT selection and installation: 17 per cent

Process improvement: 17 per cent