Sometimes we make good, informed decisions. At other times they turn out not-so-good, irrational or downright bad. But can we leave the right decision to chance, especially when it often is irrevocable? After all, success does depend on consistently making high-quality decisions!
Choosing and implementing the best course of action from various alternatives is not rocket science. In fact, all of us possess the latent capacity to make quality choices even in the face of uncertainty. What we need is some disciplined thinking to tap this capacity to take the right decision this time and every time!
Here are some pointers on the same:
Define problem:Outline what you have to decide and why. As J. Edward Russo says in his book, ‘Winning Decisions', “Frames have enormous power. The way people frame a problem greatly influences the solution they will ultimately choose. And the frames that people or organisations routinely use for their problems control how they will react to almost everything they encounter.”
Breaking it down into logical parts will also go a long way in simplifying the issue. Moreover, once you make all the little decisions, the big decision will essentially be made!
Establish objectives:Clearly state the goal and expected outcome of what you are trying to accomplish. Classify the requirements that your solution should meet and place them in the order of importance so that you can focus on what is most critical. Here, while you do need to cover all issues, do keep in mind that having too many variables will only complicate the problem and make it quite unmanageable. It is better to keep things simple right from the start.
Dwell on the urgency, importance and time available for arriving at a decision. Also, decide other attributes like - who will be involved in the decision-making, what are the rules of thumb to be followed, what process (decision table, tree, chart, business case) will be used.
Collect data:Methodically gather all the facts and research for information that you need to make a decision. Clearly understand the underlying causes, possibilities, probabilities and spot impediments like time constraints, emotions, personal interests or stress and work on avoiding them.
Also, be on the look out for any biases as a selective perception can make you unintentionally screen out important information. As a consultant observes, “We tend to be willing to gather facts that support certain conclusions but disregard other facts that support different conclusions!”
Develop alternatives:Never make the mistake of accepting the first feasible option. Keep brainstorming (in a group or individually) to develop creative alternatives till you cover everything that matters. J. Edward Russo further elaborates, “The more options you generate, the greater your chance of finding an excellent one . . . You should only stop generating more options when the cost and delay of further search are likely to exceed the benefit.” Then, explore and evaluate the options vis-à-vis the objectives by listing the advantages, disadvantages, effects and implications of each. Judge the relative and comparative values to slowly eliminate the unfavourable options till you considerably narrow down the list to a promising few that will work. Here, you can even consult experienced people to seek advice or new insight that will help you to make the final choice.
Tentative decision:Once you have settled on the best alternative, visualise the end result by running through the possible consequences. Dwell on the good things it will lead to, but don't forget to focus on what can go wrong either. Also, evaluating the key assumptions you are operating on, will further increase your chances of success. And, don't forget to examine whether the decision meets your needs, preferences, values and other essential attributes.
Action time:Once you have finalised the decision, it is time to implement it. Commit the required resources, time and money for putting the decision into action. Explain it to those involved and affected, and follow up to ensure proper and effective implementation. And no matter how it turns out, you should always take personal responsibility for the decision and own the outcome.
Finally, reflect on the decision-making to evaluate what was right and what was wrong. Try to learn from the mistakes and avoid them in the future.
To sum up, such a proactive and structured approach will definitely lead to intelligent decisions that not only are easier to implement but will also produce the best results!