Skip to main content

Good decisions don’t have to be slow ones

Executives often assume that speed comes at the cost of quality in decision making. A survey challenges this belief and offers tips on getting the best of both worlds.

Say that the company, business unit, or function you lead faces an important decision requiring input from across the organization. Time, you think, for some trade-offs: a good decision means involving the right people (sometimes a lot of people) and sacrificing speed; a faster decision might not be quite as good—but might be “good enough.” Either way, experience tells you that in decision making, speed comes at the cost of quality.

Except that it doesn’t. Or rather, it doesn’t have to.

Our survey of more than 1,200 respondents challenges this and other assumptions about decision making, while underscoring the frustrations many executives feel about it. One such finding: decision making uses up a lot of executives’ time, and much of it is spent ineffectively.

Good decisions don’t have to be slow ones
We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at: McKinsey_Website_Accessibility@mckinsey.com

Nonetheless, our findings identified a group of respondents who say their companies make high-quality decisions quickly, execute them quickly, and then enjoy higher growth, overall returns, or both than their counterparts do.1 How? In addition to tailoring their approach to suit the type of decision at hand, such winning organizations appear to follow these foundational practices:

Good decisions don’t have to be slow ones
We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at: McKinsey_Website_Accessibility@mckinsey.com

Exploring the organizational dynamics around this last finding can help to dispel the preconceived notions many executives have about balancing the speed, quality, and execution of decisions. To wit: while big-bet and cross-cutting decisions benefit from harnessing the diverse thinking inherent in a bigger group, this need not mean sacrificing speed. The trick is to involve people—substantively—but not necessarily to give them a vote or veto. With the right mix of processes and practices, decision makers can involve the right people, build consensus, and secure the commitment needed to ensure speedy execution.

About the author(s)

Iskandar Aminov is an associate partner in McKinsey’s Perth office; Aaron De Smet is a senior partner in the Houston office; Dan Lovallo, an alumnus of McKinsey’s San Francisco office, is a professor of business strategy at the University of Sydney.

The authors wish to thank Kanika Kakkar, David Mendelsohn, Kiran Mijar, Gregor Jost, and Leigh Weiss for their contributions to this research.

Related Articles