How To Get A Good Decision

How To Get A Good Decision

December 16, 2009 Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

Most people don’t think about how they come to decisions.

That is due to the fact that most of our decisions are made subconsciously.
We make hundreds of decisions every day.

It starts in the morning quarreling with oneself whether to get up at 5 a.m. or not and it ends in the evening when setting the alarm clock for the next day.

To make a decision consciously can improve the affected results enormously.

I must say “can” because sometimes in very complex situations it may be possible that a conscious decision doesn’t increase the quality of the affected consequences at all.

In this case an intuitive decision may attain at least the same or maybe even better results by taking less time because your subconscious mind has the capacity to compare all your saved experiences with the actual complex situation.

The result of this comparison is called gut instinct.

But you have to be careful with this instinct. It is a good and effective way to get quick decisions mentioning a big number of influence factors and conditions. But the conditions of a decision vary from case to case.

This means your subconscious mind compares the actual conditions with dated conditions according to the experiences you’ve made.

Sometimes this leads your instinct into a wrong direction. It’s definitely a great thing to have experience in a certain field but it’s simply dangerous to rely only on this experience without balancing the corresponding rational arguments.

Making conscious decisions becomes even more important as soon as other persons are affected. As long as you are responsible for others you have a duty to make the best decisions you can for you and your team.

Deciding and leading are closely linked because making decisions is a crucial ability of leaders. Making good decisions is a crucial ability of great leaders.

Keep in mind that someone who decides is always leading independent from his position in any hierarchy. It’s not of importance which power and authority an organization gives to you. It’s just of importance which power and authority you really have in your organization.

As long as you decide, you’re the true leader.

I have known so many good employees who have never had any managerial authority in their lives. But all the crucial questions in their departments were answered by them and all the difficult decisions with large impact were made by them.

Their so-called leaders just gave the corresponding affirmations.

This implies that you do not necessarily have to bear the responsibility in order to be a true leader. But it’s essential to make the decisions.

In the best case of course you have the responsibility for your decisions as well.
But very often especially in industrial companies it takes a long time until the true leaders gain the corresponding managerial authority.

So let’s have a look at what characterizes a decision:

Deciding always means to choose a certain alternative out of many different
possible alternatives.

The decision maker tries to anticipate all the impacts and consequences that can be affected by his decision. He explores and balances the desirable and the undesirable impacts by comparing them to his personal decision criteria.

The more the anticipated impacts of an alternative match his personal decision criteria the more likely this certain alternative will be chosen.

As I have already mentioned above you must be aware of this mental decision process in order to be able to make a decision consciously.

I’ve divided this mental process up into 10 steps and I’ve added some useful intermediate steps afterwards in order to present you a very effective way to get good decisions:

  1. Define your problem exactly
  2. Get aware if your are really the decision maker
  3. Fix your decision criteria
  4. Explore all possible alternatives
  5. Anticipate the consequences and impacts of each alternative
  6. Evaluate the alternatives by identifying strengths, weaknesses, risks and opportunities
  7. Make a decision
  8. Realize your decision
  9. Control your decision
  10. Learn from your decision

1.) Define your problem exactly

In most cases your problem is not transparent. You always have a lack of information.

Even if it seems as if you have all the relevant facts and information you need for a decision please don’t decide to quickly. Try to gather as many facts as possible and don’t rely on the meaning of single persons. Of course this takes time.

For that you should just bother with the crucial and urgent matters and you should delegate the decisions with a minor priority.

The quality of your decisions is important and not the quantity.

2.) Get aware if your are really the decision maker

After having worked out a certain overview by gathering lots of information you should ask yourself whether you are really the person who has the authority to decide in this question. This primarily concerns your personal expertise.

Do you really have the expertise to decide this question or is it necessary to
involve a specialist ? Does this decision only affect your department, faculty, special field or whatever? Or does this decision have impact on other departments too?

Sometimes it may be necessary to discuss your decision with leaders of other departments that could be affected by your decision.

Sometimes it may be even necessary to let someone else decide this certain question.
But in most cases you should decide for yourself.

Always keep in mind that deciding means leading.

3.) Fix your decision criteria

This is a decisive step. Perhaps it’s the most decisive one.

Fix your decision criteria before you are going to explore the possible alternatives.

What are the basic requirements to your decision? Which requirements must be fulfilled at least? Do you have a personal vision or a strategy your decisions must be aligned with? What are your personal values? What are the values you represent in your role as leader of your team?

You must get clarity in these questions by defining the parameters for your decision.

If you do not have any professional strategy or vision then just get aware of your personal measure of value. But I strongly recommend to create a personal vision and strategy afterwards in order to have a kind of coordinate system for further decisions.

4.) Explore all possible alternatives

Now we come to the step that most people start with much too early: exploring all thinkable alternatives.

And just because people start much too early with this step they make a crucial mistake: they get too few alternatives.

I’ve experienced this so often in my career. Employees come into my bureau and describe a special problem. After that they recommend 2 or 3 different solutions for this problem expecting an affirmation for one of them. Sometimes it’s just one solution that just represents their own personal preferences.

It is an illusion to think you could make a decision 100% objectively.

Your basis for decision can’t be completely objective due to your personal feelings, preferences, aversions, values and experiences.

So it’s hard enough for you to get aware of your personal subjective meanings and convictions. Don’t adulterate your decions even more by accepting just the obvious alternatives presented by your folks.

Be creative and enforce your team to find more alternatives.

Alternatives which maybe aren’t that obvious but which simply come up into your mind by studying the facts profoundly.

In this context it is important to mention that no decision is also a valid alternatve but only if all the other alternatives still exist in the future when the decision is going to be made.

Sometimes it can be helpful just to wait in order to gather more decisive information.

5.) Anticipate the consequences and impacts of each alternative

The certainty concerning your anticipation of impacts and consequences depends on your corresponding amount of information.

The more information you can rely on the more you will feel assure about the consequences of your decision

From time to time it is helpful just to change your perspective.
Change your role and put yourself into the perspective of someone else in order to anticipate even the reactions of other persons.

Have also a look at the environment of your decision:
Which conditions have necessarily to be considered?

6.) Evaluate the alternatives by identifying strengths, weaknesses, risks and opportunities

Please do this step even if you think the best alternative lies already obviously in front of you. You can’t exhaustively evaluate the alternatives without doing this exercise.

You will probably find more strengths of a certain alternative by evaluating the weaknesses of another one. An opportunity on the one hand can specify a risk on the other hand. Strengths, weaknesses, risks and opportunities are always crosslinked with each other.

In most cases a decision is quite complex. You’re just able to handle this complexity by analyzing all the details of each alternative. Afterwards you can assess the valid alternatives relatively.

7.) Make a decision

After having analyzed the problem and its environment you should explore how far the anticipated effects of each alternative harmonize with your decision criteria. That’s all. Now it’s really easy to make a decision.

The crucial work in a decision process is grounded in the exact definition of your problem and the fixation of your coordinate system for the further assessment and evaluation of your alternatives. The decision itself is just a simple comparison.

But try at least to let the concerned folks partake in the decision process in order to get a sustainable decision because very often you have to deal with subliminal resistances in your team.

Try to get an open dissent about you decision. Discuss it and transform the resistances into a consensus.

8.) + 9.) Realize and Control your decision

Effective leaders always care for the realization of their decisions after
having decided something. The hard work of making decisions is not worth it if nothing happens afterwards.

So once you’ve made a decision take care for the definition of responsibilities (that should always be names of living people) for each action that must follow then.

Integrate the execution and control of your decision into the decision process in order to realize your decisions effectively.

If you do not have a team just enforce yourself to execute your own decision.
It is quite a liberating feeling to enforce oneself to execute something that has been consciously decided by oneself before.

It’s also essential to train this discipline in order to establish new beneficial habits in your life.

10.) Learn from your decision

Your decision has a very good quality if the consequences and impacts that follow your decision match your decision criteria.

To compare your decision criteria with the affected consequences afterwards allows you to learn and to improve.

So do this as often as you can in order to improve your ability to decide effectively and correctly. This may sound good and simple but most people simply ignore this last step. That’s the reason why many leaders make the same mistakes again and again. Nobody is perfect and it’s just human to make mistakes.

But two facts distinguish a successful leader from an unsuccessful leader:

  • The successful leader learns from his mistakes by analyzing his decisions.
  • 51% of the successful leader’s daily decisions are correct because of the effective decision methods he uses.

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Posted in Making Decisions on Dec 16th, 2009, 20:53 by haukeborow