Check out this month's business management files.

Making Sound Decisions

Whether you have one especially vexing problem to resolve or a bunch of smaller ones, management experts Connie Sitterly and Beth Duke offer some advice on how to ease the decision-making process.

Consider all the alternatives open to you. Look at both the negative and positive consequences of each alternative. Base your decision on the goals and policies of your organization. Otherwise, whatever the merits of your decision, it will add little to the company’s big picture.

Take into account the feelings of those involved. When employees know you do this, their responses to unpopular decisions often are softened. Realize that your decision must be based on the company’s best interests, not popularity issues.

Once you’ve considered the data at hand, make your decision in a timely fashion. Procrastination can be costly. Announce your decision with confidence. And act on your decision without waiting for the praise of others to validate it. You can’t always count on achieving consensus.

Remember that not all decisions will prove to be successful, even though you based them on the best information available. But no decision is irrevocable; new paths can be charted. The success of the overall project or venture, not just one aspect of it, is what really counts.

Know Your Competition

Marketing expert Regis McKenna reminds us that machines and products don’t compete, people do. People have to spot the market opportunities and take advantage of them. People have to develop the products and competitive strategies, and allocate resources and develop customer relationships.

There are many ways people end up competing with themselves, according to McKenna. When people underestimate their own ideas, just because the ideas never have been tried out before, they are competing with themselves. When, on the other hand, people develop an air of omnipotence and believe they can’t fail, they also are competing with themselves. When people are unwilling to listen, when they are unwilling to change, when they are unwilling to experiment, they are competing with themselves.

People must leave themselves open to think creatively. With markets changing so rapidly, managers must be able to analyze new situations and apply creative approaches to them. Old approaches to new situations usually won’t work.

Above all, advises McKenna, managers must pay attention to their customers. They must listen and respond to them. They must not underestimate their competition – or overestimate it. And they must continue to experiment. Successful leaders make things happen. They have an attitude, a way of thinking that permeates the company. If managers adopt this pattern of thinking, this frame of mind, they can avoid the biggest problem of all: turning themselves into competitors.

Remembering Names

Some are better at it than others, but we all could stand to improve our name-remembering skills. It makes a great impression to know people’s names the next time you see them. Here are some exercises that will make it a little easier.

Slow down the introduction. Take the time to repeat and pronounce each person’s name. If the person who has introduced you runs off, don’t be embarrassed to admit to your new acquaintance that you didn’t quite catch his or her full name.

Carry on some conversation. You stand a better chance of remembering names if you talk to each person for a few moments. At times when you are rushed, at least try to exchange a few pleasantries before you move on.

Study the written word. If the person is wearing a nametag, remember the way it is spelled. Glance at the written name often while you talk to burn the letters into your memory. If the person isn’t wearing a nametag, ask for a business card.

Repeat the name often. While you chat, repeat the person’s name frequently. Take advantage of any opportunity to introduce the person to someone else.

Don’t panic if you see one of your new contacts and can’t immediately recall the person’s name. It may well pop into your head after chatting for a minute.

Sticky situation: What happens if you are talking with someone and still can’t recall the name when another person whom you know joins the conversation? The two people should be introduced, but how do you manage when can’t remember the first person’s name? Try this: Say, “Do you two know each other?” At that point, the two probably will shake hands and introduce themselves.