Decisions, Decisions (Part II)

Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.
–Napoleon I

(To review the beginning of the decision-making process discussed last week, visit here.)

Assuming you have time to make a decision, and the decision has significance, then you should go through a decision-making process. The process should start with correctly framing the question, ensuring that you know what you are trying to decide. This often leads to probing that uncovers a more core issue. You may think the question is "Should I buy this specific house?" when a better question might be "What is the wisest way to provide a home for my family?" Failure to ask the right question can lead to seriously flawed decisions.

Next, review the information you have and what further information may be useful. You may need to do research, read reviews, ask experts or perform analytics. While more information is generally better, you should determine if the cost and time of acquiring the information justifies its value in the decision-making process. This is an important step, as some people just ask for more data that delays decision-making and increases cost when the additional information has little value. Prioritize your information needs and spend the time and money acquiring the information that has the highest benefit.

Decide who else may be impacted by your decision, and ensure they are informed and have an opportunity to provide input. Operating in isolation risks harming your relationships and can hamper implementing the decision by creating resistance.

If this is a business decision that your leader is interested in, meet with him or her to discuss it and get their point of view. You should also meet with your team or advisors to review the question and information to seek their input and brainstorm ideas, urging “constructive conflict” and open debate. List alternatives and pros/cons. Seek consensus, primarily listening and soliciting dialogue, without necessarily expressing your point of view. If consensus is not possible, after you believe all points had been made, make the decision and explain your rationale.

Try to find a way to say “yes” to new opportunities and push yourself and your team to figure how to do something, rather than figure out the reasons not to do it.

Determine the action plan around the decision, with timetable and accountabilities. Then, ensure the decision, rationale, action plan, timetable and accountabilities are documented and interested parties are informed.

If new information becomes available, be willing to revisit your decision to ensure it is still correct and modify your plans accordingly.

Although taking all these steps will not guarantee a perfect outcome, you will have increased the probability of success. Life is a series of decisions, and, by raising the odds, you improve the likelihood of having a great, surpassing life.

Action Points
• Make sure you have a sound decision-making process—don't decide important issues on a whim.
• If a decision is urgent or not very significant, go with your experience, not an extensive process.
• Don't fall prey to an artificial deadline. You can usually negotiate the time you need to make a good decision.
• Make sure you are asking the right question before seeking the solution.
• Get input from your advisors and team, and especially those who will be impacted by your decision.
• Have a good debate, then decide and capture your decision on paper.
• Revisit your decision if you get new, substantial information.

Payoff
Sound decisions, more effective plans, stronger buy-in, easier implementation

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go . . .
–Dr. Seuss

 

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