Sunday, August 17, 2008

How to improve your Decision Making

One of the major attributes of a good leader is our decision making skills. Good decisions are based upon a mixture of data, analysis, intuition, wisdom, experience, and judgment. Making good decisions involves collecting the available information, being able to ask for other people's opinions and thoughts and then making the decision. No one is ever right all the time; it's the percent of good decisions over time that matters.

What can we do to improve our decision making skills?

Do you hesitant to make a decision. Play out the consequences in your head to see how the decision would play in real life. Test out a number of scenarios to support your decision. You may be hesitating because your little voice in your head is telling you something isn't right. Good decisions are usually somewhere between the second and third decision you come to, as you explore the options.

Are you biased. Do you play favorites, deciding quickly in one area, but holding off in another? Do you drag out your favorite solutions to often? Be clear and honest with yourself about your attitudes, beliefs, biases, opinions and prejudices and your favorite solutions. We all have them. The key is not to let them affect your objective and cold decision making. Before making any sizable decision, ask yourself, are any of my biases affecting this decision?

Common mistakes in thinking: ? If sales are down, and we increase advertising and sales go up, this doesn't prove causality. They are simply related. Say we know that the relationship between sales/advertising is about the same as sales/number of employees. Do you state as facts things that are really opinions or assumptions? Are you sure these assertions are facts? State opinions and assumptions as that and don't present them as facts. Do you attribute cause and effect to relationships when you don't know if one causes the other. Do you generalize from a single example without knowing if that single example does generalize?

Analyze the situation? Thoroughly define the problem. Think out loud with others; see how they view the problem. Figure out what causes it. Keep asking why. See how many causes you can come up with and how many organizing buckets you can put them in. This increases the chance of a better solution because you can see more connections. Look for patterns in data, don't just collect information. Put it in categories that make sense to you. Then when a good alternative appears you're likely to recognize it immediately.

Learn from your history. Take an objective look at your past decisions, and what the percentage were good choices. Break the decisions into topics or areas of your life. For most of us, we make better decisions in some areas than others. Maybe your decision-making skills need help in one or two limited areas, like decisions about people, decisions about your career, political decisions, technical, etc.

Slow down. Life is a balance between waiting and doing. Life affords us neither the data nor the time. You may need to try to discipline yourself to wait just a little longer than you usually do for more, but not all, the data to come in. Push yourself to always get one more piece of data than you did before until your correct decision percent becomes more acceptable. Instead of just doing it, ask what questions would need to be answered before we'd know which way to go

Sleep on it. The brain works on things even when you are not thinking about them. Take some time, do something completely different, and get back to the decision later. Let a good night's sleep go by and re-assess the problem in the morning.

Use your network. You’ve taken time to create your network of colleagues, experts and task force, present the problem and all you know about it, and let the group help decide. Delegate the decision. Sometime others above, aside, or below you may be in a better position to make the decision.

Study great decision makers. Which great decision makers do you admire? Steve Jobs? Winston Churchill? Read the biographies and autobiographies of a few people you respect, and pay attention to how they made decisions in their life and careers. Take some notes on ideas they used that you could apply.

With some effort on our behalf we can improve the way we make our decisions to help us better develop as leaders in our environment.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post!
    We sure can all use some help in making better consistant decision to drive our business to new heights.