How to Speed Up Your Decision-Making Process

by Stephen Danos

Today, business leaders have a lot to consider when making decisions: performance analytics and other data coming in from a multitude of sources, resource and budget run rates, and much more. The faster a leader can reach the best decisions based on the best intel, the faster teams can carry out strategies, provide competitive value, and delight customers.

A businessman takes a moment to think before writing at his office desk.

Given the stakes, refining your decision-making process is well worth the effort, but to get the process right may require a few false starts and iterations. It will also help if your team can adopt an agile mindset, so they can take small steps in the right direction, giving you test-and-learn insights to make decision-making processes more efficient and swift.

While there’s no quick fix, here are five things leaders can do to speed up decision making — and how Smartsheet can set teams up for repeatable success.

1. Clarify Accountability

It sounds basic, but having clearly articulated accountability is crucial to getting work done effectively. Knowing who is accountable for what helps teams start off projects on the right foot, and prevents wasted time spent with crossed wires or duplicated efforts.

When company leaders value accountability, transparency, and visibility, they open the door for individuals to make informed, independent decisions and effectual contributions without constant supervision.


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Smartsheet gives leaders and their teams a centralized location for all pertinent information, whether teams use sheets, dashboards, portals, or some combination. Adding a column to display the task owner, which can be set up to pull from employee email contacts, provides even more accountability — especially when boosted with automated actions. Through Smartsheet, teams can break out of their silos and share KPIs in real-time with anyone in their organization.

2. Get the Right Data in Front of Decision Makers


A businessman points at a tablet device, which shows a Smartsheet dashboard.

Leaders can feel overwhelmed and stymied when determining which data is essential for holding teams accountable and determining the company’s overall success. Having access to accurate, real-time data is critical for decision makers, and outdated data can derail campaigns and hurt a team’s budget.


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Using Smartsheet, managers can then assign metric reporting responsibilities to individuals on their team. Whether they rely on Google Analytics, Tableau, or another data analytics platform, it’s best when the right data is rolled up into a single executive dashboard.

A Smartsheet dashboard can be set up to display KPI metrics using widgets — charts, reports,  metrics, and shortcuts to important URLs. Decision makers can view important information in one place without sitting through status update meetings or scrolling through complex spreadsheets.

3. Give Yourself a Decision-Making Framework

A railroad track switch with a fright train in the background.

In their work with organizations looking to become more agile, researchers at McKinsey & Company found that improvements to decision making can be accelerated by categorizing the type of decision that’s being made and taking action based on the category.

In the article, “Untangling Your Organization’s Decision Making,” they lay out their framework (or “ABCD”) for categorizing decisions:

  • Ad hoc decisions: low-risk decisions that don’t happen very often

  • Big-bet decisions: infrequent, high-risk decisions that have the potential to shape the future of an organization

  • Cross-cutting decisions: frequent, high-risk decisions that are “a series of small, interconnected decisions made by different groups as part of a collaborative, end-to-end decision process”

  • Delegated decisions: frequent, low-risk decisions that are “handled by an individual or working team with limited input from others”

Once decision types are categorized, the researchers lay out suggested steps to resolution. The authors also point out the importance of “tracking and feedback mechanisms to judge the success of decisions and, as needed, to course correct for both the decision and the decision-making process.”

Directors and managers can create a Smartsheet form — accessed via desktop, laptop, or mobile devices  — for categorizing higher-level decisions based on ABCD. Leaders can easily capture, classify, and prioritize decisions based on overall business impact.

4. Check for Biases

A businessman uses the Smartsheet mobile app on a smartphone.

Cognitive biases, or mistakes in logic that are consciously or subconsciously based on a person’s beliefs or preferences, can undermine our decision making without us even being aware of their impact. These biases come in all shapes and sizes, but astute leaders strive for self-awareness (for themselves and in their teams) when making decisions.


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Common cognitive biases in business are confirmation bias (ignoring evidence that counters your hypothesis), saliency bias (overvaluing recent or notable events), action-oriented bias (taking action while ignoring uncertainty), and stability bias (a preference for sticking to the status quo).

Smartsheet can help resolve and help to dampen the impact of these biases. For starters, leaders can create a basic checklist of the abovementioned biases in a sheet for themselves and individual contributors to check their assumptions and strengthen their decision-making process. Checklists can be customized from templates or built from scratch.

5. Take a Deep Breath

A businessman takes a break from work to meditate at his desk.

When the stakes are high, so is anxiety. After all, the important decisions leaders make can ripple throughout an entire organization. As companies grow, they must confront greater complexity and a higher volume of digital communication methods and platforms.

Teams and departments can connect better and minimize miscommunication through a variety of Smartsheet integrations, such as popular platforms Slack and Workplace by Facebook.


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Regular, two-way communication with stakeholders in a productive manner helps to develop healthy alignment. It’s also key to set realistic goals and deadlines when transforming your decision-making process — ones that are hard to misinterpret.

Business leaders in every industry need to make impactful decisions all the time. Having a reliable work management platform, such as Smartsheet, empowers teams to share accurate intel with leaders so they can confidently make those tough calls much quicker.

Does your company use Slack? Watch our video “Smartsheet for Slack: Bring Your Team Communication Together” to see how the platforms integrate to make teams more aware and productive.