Business leaders and managers face many challenges, not least the ability to make effective decisions based on unclear and shifting information.
Ambiguity can be found at all levels of decision-making across an organisation. It affects everyone, from a strategic leader wondering whether to re-structure the business or launch a new product, to a front-line manager deciding which project to focus on or whether to recruit now or wait.
These 5 practical strategies help you to deal with ambiguity.
1. It’s natural
It’s important to recognise that ambiguity is a natural organisational state, as markets, budgets, work projects and priorities are rarely set in stone.
As a leader or manager you cannot change the fact that ambiguity exists – however by changing your attitude towards it and how you choose to deal with it in practice – you CAN go a long way towards improving your decision-making capability.
2. Be specific
In some cases, ambiguity can be diminished simply by asking for more information or clarification.
When receiving information or instructions, ask for specific details wherever possible. For example:
- What is the main objective?
- What are the key deliverables?
- Who is responsible for key tasks?
- When is the expected completion date?
Remember that information can become lost or misinterpreted as it moves through an organisation, so ensure that your communications to colleagues and team members are as precise as possible, and encourage them to adopt a similar approach.
3. Be organised
When faced with ambiguity, people can often become hampered by trivial issues or adopt a scattergun approach rather than focusing on what is most important.
Keep a sense of focus on the bigger picture by prioritising tasks in order of importance from one to ten, and then organising and delegating the work appropriately.
4. Don’t get bogged down
With any decision, there will always be a margin for error.
Managing ambiguity effectively calls for the ability to overcome the need for absolute perfection and strike an appropriate balance between taking time to think things through and taking action.
Although some of your decisions won’t please everyone, fear of criticism should not become a smokescreen for unnecessary delay in you moving forward.
5. Break it down
If ambiguity has halted progress, it can be helpful to take a step back and break a large decision or problem down into a series of smaller components.
Gathering information and making decisions about smaller issues (and gathering feedback on these) can gradually make a larger problem become clearer and thus more manageable