Decision making in uncertain times – McKinsey & Company

Written by Andrea Alexandar, Aaron De Smet, Leigh Weiss

Leaders know that making good, fast decisions is challenging under the best of circumstances. But the trickiest are those we call “big bets”—unfamiliar, high-stakes decisions. When you have a crisis of uncertainty such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which arrived at overwhelming speed and enormous scale, organizations face a potentially paralyzing volume of these big-bet decisions.

The typical approach of many companies, big and small, will be far too slow to keep up in such turbulence. Postponing decisions to wait for more information might make sense during business as usual. But when the environment is uncertain—and defined by urgency and imperfect information—waiting to decide is a decision in itself. For instance, delaying the decision to cancel noncritical surgeries can mean not freeing up physician and hospital capacity now and potentially exposing or infecting more people.

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