The litmus test for decision making

Mar 12, 2018

If you’ve ever actually done a litmus test you know that one of the best things about it is that it’s fast. Dip the paper in the solution or put a drop of solution on the paper and “voila,” the results are shown immediately! That’s gratifying.

Decision-making for leaders is kind of like that as well. You have to be able to respond to opportunities and threats quickly. It should be almost reflexive. Either it passes the litmus test or not. This is a necessary quality to have in a rapidly changing environment.

What may seem to some that you are making decisions impulsively or with incomplete information is at least partially incorrect. You have done your homework. You have done your research. Your planning has helped you to “pre-think” the decision. That way you know what to do when faced with whatever you are facing – good or bad.

A lot of firm principals have a real hard time with this. It hurts their effectiveness, though, and reduces their ability to keep things moving in a positive direction. People like working for people who can make a decision. It is motivational for them.

For instance, we made a new employee here very happy recently. She needed some new equipment to fit out our e-learning studio. She made a detailed request. The request was granted within 30 minutes and she ordered her stuff. This was compared to the last place she worked where it would have taken weeks and the request either modified or only partly granted. She was very grateful for the quick decision and it allowed her to feel more enthused about her job and her work environment.

There are a million other examples. The point is this: know what you are trying to do with your business. Have a clear idea of the end in mind. Ask yourself every time you have to make a decision if what you are doing is best for the long-term health of the company or not, and whether or not it is consistent with your stated plans and goals. If so, go. If not, no go. Seems like a simple idea.

The point is you can work on your ability to act faster by simply acting faster. That takes pre-planning but the time spent, and time saved, is well worth it!

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.