Decision making is tough for those who think it is easy. It is doubly tough for the indecisive among us. I am not sure what the percentages are but I can’t imagine a majority of people enjoy making decisions. Decisions are here to stay. They cannot be avoided. They only vary in size and impact. I have no doubt that decision making can become something that we get better at with time. What are the best steps to take to make a solid decisions?
Decisions come in big and small packages. Here are 4 steps to take in making a good decision.
- Look outside of the box for both/and instead of either/or.
- Sometimes only Time will tell.
- Kick the can down the road.
- Prepare for failure.
Look for Both/And and not just Either/Or
When making a decision, put all the known data and information on the table. Then ask, “Is there a Both/And solution to be made here?” The stress of decision making often comes from the fear of not getting “IT” right. If it is as simple decision such as what to wear (I think that is simple but then I have heard that some people change clothes 2-3 times before leaving the house) then a YES/NO or EITHER/OR will be appropriate. You can use gut feelings, plurality of counselors (husband, kids, friends, etc), and past experience (how these clothes looked last time you wore them) to help guide the decision. But what if it is a grey area where it goes beyond a simple yes/no. How do you make a decision? Like, how does one decide on staffing a position, cutting an initiative, adding an initiative, or what to do on vacation? Look for a Both/And and not just and Either/Or. Chip and Dan Heath call this, “Narrow framing.” They wrote a book called Decisive. Narrow Framing comes when we limit our choices to those that are obvious. In order to get the focus broadened, deliberately ask what would happen if we couldn’t do any option or what would happen if we could do two options. For instance, hiring may be avoided by re-structuring or doing both. Get outside the box and take a risk.
Give it Some Time
As long as it is available, time is a friend not an enemy. Calm leadership is nearly always the best leadership when it comes to decision making. Poor decisions are rushed. Good decisions come from taking your time. Don’t be afraid to say, “Let’s TABLE that for next time.” Sleep, life, eating, and relating can bring a ton of great insight. BE PATIENT.
Kicking the Can
Can the decision be put off? If not, think in terms of what the outcomes might look like in the short term and the long term. It takes guts but it also takes understanding reality. Many a poor decision has been made because someone’s gut got in the way of clear thinking. A great way to kick the can is to consider what it would like if a decision was made through a test of it. For instance, if an organization is not sure about how to change a procedure they can try something out for a short time and make tests and gain more information. What is true of procedures may also apply to personnel.
Prepare for Failure
The reason we don’t prepare for failure is because we don’t appreciate it enough. Failure is a massive blessing. In the 1960s, IBM CEO Tom Watson called an executive into his office after his venture lost $10 million. The man assumed he was being fired. Watson told him, “Fired? Hell, I spent $10 million educating you. I just want to be sure you learned the right lessons.” Organizations can learn from this example. Instead of fearing failure we should spend some time celebrating failures. Without failure there may have not been risk and without risk there is often no productivity. If the ship is on autopilot the team avoids failure but there is no real growth either.