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The power to make up our minds.

Congratulations--you just made a decision!

By turning to this page, you made one of your many daily choices, beginning with the decision to get up in the morning. The small decisions don't cause most of us much effort. The big ones, however, can bog us down.

The ability to make good, timely decisions is often what sets the potential supervisor or manager apart from the rest of the staff. It can determine our professional future and influence the way employees judge our effectiveness. Nothing is more destructive or demoralizing to a work group than an indecisive leader.

In the health care field or private life, however, it seems that the whole world is more indecisive than ever these days. Why? Here are several reasons:

* Fear of failure. After the ill-fated Bay of Pigs incident, President John F. Kennedy noted that while victory khas a hundred fathers, defeat is an orphan. No one wants to take the blame for a wrong decision, so we try to play it safe by taking the path with the least risk--by taking no action at all.

Not every choice we make will be right. Some decisions are by necessity educated guesses, based on available data. We need to foster a work environment that allows individuals the freedom to make decisions and learn from them. We should also encourage employees to point out flaws in our own decision-making processes--a safeguard against winding up like the emperor in his non-existent new clothes.

* Too much data. While data are critical to making decisions, they can become too much of a good thing. This age of computers and photocopiers inundates us with information. If decisions were based solely on data, we could delegate them to computers. But supervisors must sometimes cut through mounds of facts and figures and go with their gut feeling.

* Too many options. The slogan for the Model T car was, "Any color you want, as long as it's black." Today, our range of choices in everything from car colors to chemistry analyzers can be mind-boggling. The sheer profusion of alternatives can drag out decisions. One perfect option may not exist; our job is to select the best one available.

* Future shock. The pace of social and technical change is so swift that the "right" decision today may look awfully wrong tomorrow, as many lab maangers became painfully aware with the passage of DRGs. This realization can make us gun-shy when it comes to decision making.

* Too many cooks. The desire to manage democratically, if taken to extremes, can paralyze our capacity to choose. As a rule, the speed of a decision is inversely proportional to the number of people involved in making it. Participatory management can be counterproductive if a quick or possibly unpopular decision is necessary. At those times, the lab needs one person in charge who is not afraid to get tough.

* Fear of stirring up resentment. Some of us put off decisions, or make the wrong ones, to avoid upsetting and antagonizing others. At some point, however, a good manager has to make some unpleasant choices. Like a referee making a controversial call at a football game, you will usually have half the crowd mad at you no matter what you do.

Courage, in fact, is probably the effective decision maker's greatest asset: courage not only to make and implement the decision but to admit later that you may have been wrong. When there is no ideal answer, the path of least resistance becomes tempting, but it probably will not lead to a solution in the long run.

The Federal Government's current deficit reduction fiasco is a prime example. Instead of making the hard decisions, the bureaucrats kept skirting the issue for years, hoping that someone else would do the job for them. No one did, and in the meantime the debt kept piling up by the billions.

All of us, from the Washington establishment down, are facing difficult choices that cannot be put off for long. Our decisions won't always by popular, or even right. But we will grow a little with each one we make--starting, I'd like to think, with your decision to read this column.
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Title Annotation:decision making
Author:Maratea, James M.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Mar 1, 1985
Words:696
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