Whose DECISION Is It, Anyway?

Article excerpt

Name: Jerre L. Stead

Title: Chairman and CEO

Company: Ingram Micro Inc., Santa Ana, California

Line of Business: computer technology distributor

Number of Employees: 12,000

Revenues: $20 billion

Salespeople sell, administrators organize and engineers create, but executives decide. We decide to recruit new talent, open or close facilities, enter new lines of business or leave old ones.

Through our decisions, we influence other people's lives and spend other people's money. Our decisions determine our companies' fortunes. They also get us lionized and demonized.

So, if our decisions carry so much weight, why don't we make it easier on ourselves to make better decisions?

Effective decision making is rare in the corporate world, even though most companies contain the necessary elements.

Corporate infrastructures have drifted from their original purpose, which was to put decision making close to customers and resources. Now, our structures tend to move decision making so far up the corporate ladder that the person ultimately responsible has no direct knowledge of the situation. The lines of accountability also are blurred.

The limited accountability bred into many corporate structures encourages decision making without facts, the least effective brand. If people are not accountable for the quality of their decisions, then there is no incentive to ferret all the necessary facts. There are as many decision-making styles as there are golf swings, but aggressive fact finding and consideration are common to them all. I make decisions quickly because I've always felt that if I put events in motion as soon as possible, I can modify and reverse what doesn't work. Fast, however, is not synonymous with hasty. I don't proceed until I'm sure I've pursued and weighed all the pertinent facts. I expect the same diligence from my executive team.

This may sound like a luxurious approach to decision making. How, you might ask, can executives spend enough time gathering and weighing facts when they must have dozens of important decisions to make every week? Don't they have to rely on instinct some of the time?

No. Instinct and experience have their roles in decision making, but the process is incomplete without fact finding. My team and I have the time to consider the facts of every situation because we limit ourselves to few critical decisions each day. The rest of the decisions that keep our company thriving are made by the people closest to a situation-the ones who know its facts. …