Sunday, September 23, 2012

Decisions, Decisions #2 - How do you make them now?

Last time we learned that judging the soundness of our decisions based on the PROCESS we use to make them is a better strategy than basing that judgment on the RESULTS we achieve. This approach is rests on three ideas:

1)      By developing a decision-making process that rigorously considers a standard set of attributes and criteria, we can arrive at better results IF the parameters and criteria we use are USUALLY important factors.

2)      By revisiting our decision making process after achieving our results, we can adjust our attributes and criteria based on lessons learned and improve the probability of making a good decision next time.

3)      If we accept that the result of the decision is the only way to judge its soundness, it inhibits our addressing the process of making a decision.

Clearly, these attributes and criteria must be important. Fortunately, people have been developing them for thousands of years, continually refining them.  To begin with, I will put them in 3 different categories for general discussion and then go through them in detail:

Category 1 – Perspective

There is generally more than one (meaning more than just YOUR perspective). This means you need to understand the various other perspectives and account for them in the decision.

Category 2 – Impact

Decisions that can result in serious and / or permanent results deserve different scrutiny than those that make little difference. One of my early mentors put it this way “The size of a problem can be measured by the difficulty to recover from it.” I think that is pretty sound advice.

Category 3 –Basis for Decision

We have all heard decisions characterized as “an emotional decision” or “a fact-based decision”.  However, few of us are trained such that we really know what these terms mean, or if there are other bases for decisions (which of course there are), and how to IMPROVE our basis. If you understand the basis for a decision and you understand the differences between the various bases, you can improve your likelihood of making a good decision. Would you rather make a decision based on intuition, or on the results of an expert study? Which do you think would have the greater likelihood of being correct?

The above are the things in which we will develop expertise over the next few articles. For now, I want you to consider the following questions. Feel free to write me ( or post your thoughts here on the blog. I want you to think about how you CURRENTLY do these things – define your current process……

Perspective Questions –

·         How do I assure that I know which viewpoints are important in a decision?

·         How do I make sure I understand what decision should be made in the eyes of the people that hold those viewpoints?

·         How do I make sure that competing viewpoints are resolved such that the people involved can be depended on to carry out the decision and work towards achieving the desired result?


 Impact Questions -

·         How do I determine best, worst, and likely-case results for my decisions?

·         How do I define critical vs. non-critical with respect to outcomes? By the way the outcome affects me personally? My boss? My customers? Other stakeholders?

·         How do I determine the consequences of the outcomes?

·         What if it the likely outcome is good for some and bad for others?


Basis Questions –

·         Everyone says that using emotion as the basis for decisions is a bad idea, but I seem to do it a lot (I bought my car cause it looks hot, I picked my favorite basketball team because all my friends liked them and were mean to people that didn’t like the same team, I chose to get a dog “just because”). What would be a better way?

·         How do I make decisions when I know that my boss disagrees? My spouse? My supplier?

·         How do I make decisions when I am short on time? Short on data? I don’t really care about the outcome?


Think about how you use these three areas to make decisions now, and we will talk about how I recommend you view them over the next few articles. I look forward to hearing from you.

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