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CEOs and Decision Making

Have you ever watched a hockey game or basketball game and wondered how the coach could have made such stupid decisions? Perhaps you look at a publicly traded company and wonder how on earth they could have chosen the strategic direction that they chose ... surely they must be a company led by incompetents! Welcome to the world of decision making and the role of the leader in an organization.

My opinion is that I would sooner see companies, and hockey teams, try things and fail rather than suffer from what I would term to be decision paralysis. In the IT space today, the parameters surrounding our world are changing at a tremendous pace. Global competition and the growth in offshoring in recent years has accelerated, the rate of consolidation has started to increase again, we have been through the boom and bust, the rise and fall of the telecommunications industry ... and maybe its resurgence. We have suffered because of the accounting scandals at Enron, resulting in regulatory scrutiny and the ensuing toll of Sarbanes Oxley etc.

In recent months, we have seen some very serious decision making by some larger players. Google's (and Cisco et al) entry into China, Microsoft's decision to invest billions of dollars in its competition with Google, Computer Science Corp's decision to publicly state it's for sale, RIMs decision to offer free corporate software, Lucent and Alcatel's decision to merge ... just some of the huge decisions in our space recently. All demonstrating courage in decision making, an acceptance of consequences and leadership. Not all will work out for the best!

For CEO's, the ability to make decisions is critical. Every day we are faced with choices that could make or break our companies, the inputs to the decision making process are always imperfect, the data is conflicting and management advisors divided upon their recommendations. The ability to make a decision is critical, the inability to act and be decisive in time of uncertainty is the kiss of death. To those removed from the details, it all looks so easy ... why can't they see it say the pundits? The armchair experts always get it right and the guy who makes the "wrong" decision is "an idiot". It's always easier to make those calls when there is nothing to lose ... but when you are faced with a decision that can seriously hurt your company it's not quite so "cut and dried".

So ... that's why they pay CEOs the big bucks, but remember they are human too and the best CEOs will make more good decisions than bad ones, will always bat better than 50% and win or lose, they wear their decisions. The CEOs that don't make a decision ... they are the ones that need to revisit their career choice!