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by Karen Eber Davis


Take a moment and a deep breath to recognize your achievements during the pandemic.   Wow!

Now let’s talk about one common cost of pandemic success —decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue is a thing recognized by AMA. The symptoms will seem familiar:

  •   procrastination

  •   impulsivity

  •   avoiding choices and indecision.

 

When you suffer from decision fatigue, your brains seek shortcuts (it uses your biases). It also increases errors—which doesn’t matter when it’s lunch but does when it’s someone’s life or livelihood.

 

You might be avoiding decision fatigue by making fewer decisions—if so, good on you. Reducing your choices helps. It’s the most common decision-making technique recommended to overcome decision fatigue. But can you reduce decision fatigue throughout your organization using it? Probably not. Since you make at least 35,000 decisions daily, you’ll barely notice even if you’re terrific at streamlining.

 

A more effective approach than just making fewer individual decisions is to improve your nonprofit’s decision-making process overall. Examining how you make decisions and deciding how to improve your techniques holds the potential to reduce the energy required to come to conclusions, places individual choices in context, and invites you to evaluate your outcomes.

 

Curing Nonprofit Decision Fatigue: A Fix for the Long-Haul

How often do you stop deciding long enough to examine your process? If you’re like most people, the answer is rarely or never.

 

How often have you attended a talk on decision-making in the nonprofit sector? My guess is rarely or never. So, if you improve how your organization decides, you’ll be at a distinct competitive advantage. (ReadBrian Greene’s comments about decisions—something they talk about a lot at the Houston Food Bank from March’s CEO Conversation.)

 

You might be stuck knowing how to start. If so, find three tactics to begin below. After using one or all of them, evaluate how the process went and what you’ll do next time. Ta-da! You are on the road to improving your decision-making.

 

Three Nonprofit Decision Making Tools

Each of the tactics involves answering questions before you launch into deciding.

 

1. Name the Decision.

What exactly are you deciding? The choice may be obvious or nuanced.

 

Deciding to close before a weather event is straightforward. Determining if you should accept or reject funding may involve answering questions about a specific income stream, a donor’s demands, making a political statement, or even responding to a bribe.

 

2. Rank the Importance of the Result.

Will you care tomorrow? Next month? Year? Ranking the value of the outcomes propels you out of today into a post-decision world and allows you “look back.”

 

For example, on a scale from one to three, with one high: Your rank to accept a significant funders demands, one. Funding is tight.

 

You rank your board meeting agenda’s order and closing before a storm rank three. Neither will matter in 60 days.

 

3. Establish a Time Allocation and Deadline.

You’re now ready to gauge a fitting time investment for the decision at hand.

For example,

  1. Decision: Close before a storm, time 10 minutes, decide by 11:30 a.m.

  2. Decision: Accept a funder’s condition, time 8 hours, decide by April 1

 

Improve your nonprofit’s decision-making process today. You’ll reduce decision fatigue and improve your outcomes. You benefit now and later. Now you stop to think about how to decide before you do. It’s a pause that matters. How about later?

 

Bain and Company found a 95 percent correlation between “decision effectiveness and business performance.” In other words, when you increase decision effectiveness, you almost always get better outcomes and vice versa.