The more alternatives, the more difficult the choice, is an old management saying. Managers need to make decisions all through their working life to see that the enterprise thrives. Every decision be it small or big has an impact on the organisation. As the consequences of a bad decision can be damaging to the reputation of the manager, usually he prefers to have complete information that will help him arrive at the right decision.

Basing a decision on data, reports and previous experience is a good way to formulate a decision. But today the process of decision making has become complex for managers as they have to take into consideration a variety of factors that will not only help them arrive at the correct solution but also stand to test in the near future term.

Risk mitigation or creating immunity from risk is the main task of managers now. With this being the objective, managers are hungry for information from every possible source that will give them deep insight to be foolproof.

Problem of plenty:In this age of the knowledge economy there is no dearth of information. Managers can get data for the asking on a product, service, stock or share movement. But is all the information they seek going to be relevant for their purpose? That is first question they must address. Sifting through the data which may be partly irrelevant can cause delay in decision making.

Many channels:Managers usually communicate through many channels, such as emails, instant messengers, conference calls and fax. They have a perception that all conversations or communication through these channels is information. They would like to retrieve every email dating back to several months or years to make a decision. Not all communication is information. And a manager must weigh the need to retrieve messages from the past to make a decision now. For example if a vendor is quoting a new price for a product and he had earlier promised to keep the price constant for six months, then it is necessary to pull out that particular email and tell the vendor that he is going back on his promise. But managers have the tendency to go through all the emails or fax sent by the vendor for other products as well before placing an order. This actually becomes an impediment in the process of decision making.

Distraction:Information or data that is collected needs to be put in to a right format that gives the manager a set of alternatives to embark up on in his decision making. But if the data collected reflects too many alternatives, the manager is actually lost or distracted from his act of decision making. This is called ‘analysis paralysis' in management jargon.

A survey has revealed that managers lost nearly 50 per cent of their time due to information overload.

Asking for more:Confronted with the task of making important decisions, senior managers have the tendency to seek more data and reports from their team members. They are not satisfied with the information provided, though in fact it may be sufficient to take a decision. This creates a sense of distrust among the team members. It also reflects poorly on the image of the manager. Stress levels rise as subordinates are not able to provide data that manager is seeking.

Often sales and marketing managers seek data on products that are not in line with their offering. They try to draw parallels in consumer behaviour and buying patterns based on such data. Just because information is available trying to incorporate it in to the decision making process can be harmful to the organisation as the decision will not yield the desire results.

Good decision making calls for getting the right data and the right amount of information to make a correct choice that will be beneficial to all stakeholders.

K. V. Rajasekher