Effective Decision Making

Sometimes we have to make important decisions where the ‘right’ answer is unclear. I would like to suggest this process for making for those tricker decisions:

1. Which of your values are relevant in this situation?

2. What are the key facts? In this step aim to see the world the way it really is rather than as your mind tells you it is.

3. What is the relationship between the facts – how do they interact?

4. Focus in depth on different parts of the problem (whilst keeping the whole in mind). Take different perspectives – how would others view this problem? How will you view this problem in 5 years time?

5. Consider that there may be a better alternative that you haven’t thought of. Ask for advice. Do some research. Brainstorm. Consider trialling different options and observing how they turn out.

6. Be prepared to sit either with the discomfort of not deciding or with the discomfort of deciding and possibly making the wrong decision. See if it possible to have those difficult thoughts and feelings without them pushing you around. 

7. Make a decision and then check it against your values – is this a move towards what you want your life to be about?

6. Observe the outcome and be prepared to make incremental adjustments. Again, work to see the world as it really is – rather than how your mind tells you it is.

This process draws on Roger Martin’s work on Integrative Thinking

I think he has developed a great model and adding in connection to values, defusion, perspective taking and acceptance make it that bit better!

Rob wrote a great post on the costs of making decisions without any connection to values.

4 thoughts on “Effective Decision Making

  1. Great post! I have been holding off commenting because I wanted my comment to be as good… But I’ve given up now so here instead are some random thoughts:

    1. Love this. Many of my clients have managed to keep those questions out of their decisions for the whole of their lives.
    2. I prefer to ask people to generate decision criteria. What, after all, are facts? If anything I try to move people away from facts – especially any that reinforce self as content (the ‘I am…’ exercise is my current fave). I find criteria easier to digest and more liberating than facts. Plus they can be ranked / weighted.
    3. Interesting. Head hurts. Something tells me danger though. I encourage my clients to rejoice when criteria contradict each other because we are getting closer to capturing the complexity of their lives. We contain multitudes…
    4. Brilliant. I need to add more of this into my process. Wonder if there’s a post in this – all the different perspectives we could generate?
    5. Yes. I love Ibarra’s book ‘Working Identity’ for this. We build (career) decisions into all or nothing, without considering the possibility of little life experiments. I would also go much further than this in terms of developing alternatives. Instead of alternatives I would ask what are *all* the options? Think about relational framing – we only really understand the meaning of ‘I’ by considering ‘you’. Similarly, we can only understand the way forward by understanding the other.
    6. Yes. I often ask clients to choose between the pain of growth and the pain of stagnation.
    7. Yes lovely. I like the idea of bringing decisions down to actions – things you do with your hands and feet and then asking that question – instead of staying theoretical. Again, things for me to think about here…
    8. Exactly! I truly believe in the value of a clear vision. It has helped me a lot. But my experience is that the vision needs constant work and reifinement. It’s a process.

    Thanks Rachel – brilliant, thought provoking post.

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