Making decisions -- why it's so hard.

Making decisions — why it’s so hard.
Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


In case you are wondering, we’re not talking about the easy, routine decisions. Why write about the easy case? The easy decisions that have been made with small variances over a long period of time are not the issue. The decisions where you know the various outcomes quite well and risk rewards quite well are just that…easy decisions.
We are talking about making decisions that change businesses from mediocre, small, struggling to healthy, growing, vibrant, profitable. We are talking about business changing, life changing decisions, even the seemingly small choices and decisions that pop up out of nowhere that lead to the big ones.
It is the choices and decisions over a career, lifetime that can turn into success or failure. Making choices and making decisions can stack up during the tenure of president, CEO, VP, director, manager and slowly erode the efforts until it crumbles or build it up and make it stronger choice by choice, decision by decision.

Jake was sitting across from me with his long list of to-dos. All good opportunities. All number one priority. He was under pressure to execute all of them.

In the past he would get frustrated and go work on some pet project. Usually a technical or detailed project that would take him into the minutia and then he’d leave work early and go do something else. He avoided the decision. This was leading him down a dangerous path in his role as director that might have ended his job at the company.

Does that scenario sound familiar to anyone? 

“So, how do I decide what to work on?” Jake asked tentatively.

I launched immediately into questions he had worked so hard on answering over the course of time we worked together. What is your vision? I had Jake recount his vision. What are your values? Jake listed off his values. What are your goals. Jake knew those too. More questions were asked and more answers followed diving deeper into the business aspects of each “opportunity.”

In the end Jake had a prioritized list of what to work on in 30 days, 90 days and over a year. He was making decisions about where he would focus and what he would not pursue.

Making choices and making decisions

What’s in making decisions that can make or break a career, a business, a product development, a new market venture? How do you redirect decisions the way you want?
First, these big decisions are really built from a whole bunch of small choices along the way. Choices about meeting someone or not, paying attention during a meeting, reading that email or article, acting on a small suggestion, choosing one candidate over another, doing homework on yourself and understanding what’s important. These small choices build a step at a time like an annuity with compound interest…they build on themselves gaining momentum over time.
If this makes sense, then the big decision is not really a big decision, but the accumulation of smaller choices and decisions.
If you know why you are here and why you are doing this thing, then those choices and decisions have a theme and guiding light. If you bounce around you are most likely not aligned. Or worse yet you are following multiple masters, getting distracted, which is complicated for you and confusing for those around you.
Ask yourself, “What is in mind that prompts this decision?” Do I hire this candidate or that candidate? Should I go with this vendor or that one? Do I want to pursue this opportunity or not?
Here are questions that help align the decision with what you want. Do not rush these questions. The answers to these questions pack a punch when you answer the questions truthfully.

Why are you at this decision point? Why are you here, doing this?
How does this decision help you get to your vision for your company, division, group, yourself?
How does this decision honor what’s important to you? Does this decision collide with your values?
Do you get a sense of excitement (optimism and possibilities) or dread (fear of losing something) approaching the decision?

As you understand the answer to the question, “Why are you here, doing this?” you begin to make small choices that align and lead you in a direction that you want to go.

Why are making decisions so hard? To get them right.

Why are making decisions so hard? To get them right.

Why is it so hard to get decisions right?

The answer to this question begins with alignment, moves on to doing your homework and ends in decision, learning from that decision’s results and adjusting. Nothing we don’t already know.
The trick here is to get the alignment right up front. What makes it tricky? We are impatient. Either we want to get moving and act or we want to get more data and information. To get alignment up front here are 4 timeless steps to get it right so “you can do the right thing.”

  1. Understand yourself. Understand your decision making preferences, strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots.
  2. Know your values
  3. Know why you are here, doing this…know your purpose.
  4. Get a long term view of what you want.
  5. Build specific goals.

Know these inside and out. Work on them until they are aligned with each other. You will know when they are. Then and only then the choices will align and the decisions will start to be with a purpose. The decisions will be decisions that you can be proud of.
The more you believe in your vision, values and goals the more aligned the choices and ultimately the decisions will be.
Okay, now here’s business side of decision making once the leadership side is nailed down…the mechanics from Mike Myatt, contributor Forbes magazine outlines it succinctly in “6 tips for making better decisions
There’s a structure to input into decisions according to Myatt.

Gut feel: Experiential or emotional filters. They may be helpful, may not.
Data:  Disparate facts, statistics…incomplete data sets.
Information:  A more complete set of data so as to do analysis.
Knowledge:  Knowledge is information that has been validated with proof of concept. 

Next it is crucial to understand the credibility and bias of the source of the input. Myatt defines credibility as whether there is a track record of success; is it reliable; is the input gut feel, data, information, or knowledge; is the input telling you what you want to hear or what they want; or is the input simply the truth.

Now, go through the rigors of situation analysis, subject the decision to public scrutiny, do a cost/benefit analysis, a risk/reward analysis, is it the “right thing” to do, and finally make a decision. (then have a plan b).

The more you become aware of the choices leading to making decisions the easier it will become to get it right.


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“Dominate your life with Focus, Decision and Execution.”