Short-term vs. Long-Term Decision Making

What are the drivers for your decision-making process?


Some decisions need to be made instantly, while others are more complex or have long-term requirements. How those decisions are made, says Dr. Shirley Raines, president emeritus of the University of Memphis, is often determined by organizational culture, as well as project milestones, time constraints, and leadership style. “If it regards the safety or security of our students … that’s an immediate decision,” explains Shirley, who was the first female president of the university and led for 12 years. She is currently a leadership consultant, speaker and author, supporting team building and goal setting in a variety of organizations.

Shirley adds that in all decision-making, the process includes four key steps:

1) Collecting information

2) Hearing input/feedback from applicable people

3) Clearly communicating the course of action

4) Creating context around the decision as it relates to short-term and long-term goals

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Some of the key elements for decision-making, for me, vary. It may be a decision that has to be made instantly. Is it the safety or security of our students? Is it something that's happening that's going wrong? It needs to be righted immediately. That's an immediate decision.

Then there are those decisions that are short-term. What's our plan for this week? And I had a President's Council, all the members of my direct reports, and we went over the week together. So the decision-making might happen in a group way, but in the end, we needed to say what the decision was. And some people would suggest how we should move forward and I say, "Here, right on, let's do that." Other times, I would say, "I'm hearing different points of view. I think we need to go this way. Let's go."

As in all businesses and in all universities, there are those timelines, whether it's the end of the tax season or whether it's the next report to the board, there are milestones where we will need to report on our progress. And so those often cause us to make decisions. So decisions mean collecting information, hearing information from different people, communicating what the course of action will be, and putting it within the larger context of what we are trying to achieve as a short-term entity and what we're trying to achieve as a long-term entity.

Dr. Shirley Raines

Dr. Shirley Raines was the first woman to hold the presidency of the University of Memphis, where she served for 12 years. In 2013, she was named President Emeritus. Known for building productive partnerships on and off campus, Shirley i...

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