3 Questions That Speed Up Your Business Decisions

by Stephen Danos

Fast, informed decisions are the backbone of successful companies. The ideal speed of decision making is analogous to an 800-meter run, the controlled sprint where participants need to establish their position and pace once the starter pistol fires. Elite runners train rigorously to shave milliseconds off their time.

A woman office worker gestures to her computer monitor while a male colleague watches.

Elite business leaders accelerate decisions by erasing dependencies, setting firm but realistic deadlines, and knowing when to challenge themselves and their teams to sprint beyond the standard pace. Companies that don’t execute quickly on a regular basis can get trounced by competitors.

Often, the speed of decision making determines the speed of execution and, ultimately, the speed of the business. Making this process a controlled sprint can challenge even the most competent executives, but answering these three questions ahead of time can help expedite your decision making.

1. How Much Time, Effort Does the Decision Need?

It might seem obvious, but it’s crucial to set up a realistic but firm timeframe based on the weight of the decision being made. Some decisions require multiple meetings, while others can be made over a rapid-fire Slack thread.

Consider making a framework for different types of decisions and determine how much time you’ll allow for each one. For instance, decisions about accountability and next steps can be reached in a single 15-minute meeting; a product or project launch plan might take a series of three meetings.

The key is identifying how much time to allot to decisions right away, then start the countdown clock.


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In addition, you’ll want to eliminate as many dependencies and cognitive biases as you can up front. Sometimes these are obvious, and you can spot them on your own. Other times, they require a bit more teasing out and require contributions from team members.

Work to identify places where work can continue on a parallel path, without waiting for others to drive the process forward. Does the work actually need to be organized in a linear fashion?

When going through this process, it's important to establish an environment where people feel heard and empowered to move forward without waiting around for others.

2. Who Needs to Have Input?

Almost every decision — even very small ones — can have an effect on internal stakeholders, and it may seem natural to include everyone affected in the decision-making process. But that’s not always ideal; too much input can result in paralysis and delays.

Consider instead keeping the initial meeting very narrow, including only the key stakeholders. In that meeting, decide who else — if anyone — needs to be actively engaged, who needs to be consulted for input, and who just needs to be kept informed as decisions progress.

For this process, using a responsibility assignment matrix framework, such as OARP (Owner, Approver, Reviewer, Participant) or RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted,Informed) can be useful.


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The input phase is an opportunity to rally support for decisions and apply pressure by appealing to what motivates individuals to succeed — whether it’s stewardship, pride, or quick efficiency.

When you’re making decisions, you want to get buy-in from your team. After you determine who needs to contribute to the process, gather their input and perspective. It might be a good idea to stay away from email threads and use Smartsheet for brainstorming, messaging, and automated status updates.

3. When Will We Have an Answer?

Defining when you’ll have a decision made can clarify expectations — especially around which team members are responsible — and have a huge impact on execution. In most cases, “today” is better than “tomorrow” when it comes to decision-making speed.

While it’s important for co-founders and other executives to not make rash decisions,  speed is not necessarily the enemy of quality. In his post “Speed As Habit”, Upstart CEO Dave Girouard posits that some decisions “deserve days of debate and analysis, but the vast majority aren’t worth more than 10 minutes.”


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How does that apply to executive decision makers? They can make speed a company habit by challenging the pace at which people make decisions. As deadlines are determined, they can lightly push back and ask if “we” can make the decision even faster.

Smartsheet Helps Make Speed a Habit

Senior leaders who ask productive, time-related questions push teams and companies to iterate and avoid inaction. Adopting the Smartsheet platform is the first step toward a unified information experience.

With important metrics, charts, presentation decks, and more rolled up from departments that are ordinarily siloed, Smartsheet executive dashboards get the right information in front of leaders at the right time — so they can make the decisions that allow their company to stay competitive.

Learn more about Smartsheet dashboards by watching the following video: