Quick, effective decision making

Mid Level Manager MLMGood enough decisions

Making decisions in a fast moving change initiative with deadlines and issues is very hard. Making the best decisions is impossible. Yet most managers in a change are hung out to dry for their bad decisions (with hindsight).

A re-think about decision making and the culture around it is needed to improve decision making and thus produce better decisions.

The purpose of a decision is not to hang the success of the whole initiative in the balance; but simply to get to the next decision. In an earlier blog we advocated planning to make decisions and allocating resources and a schedule for them. In this blog we will look a simple way to approach each decision. In a blog on the Harvard Business Review Nick Tasler identified a three step framework for making good enough decisions: that is not the best possible decision but one that is taken in a reasonable amount of time and effort and is “roughly right”.

Tasler calls this a Know-Think-Do framework. It is intended to generate the knowledge needed for a decision; test the knowledge, then make the decision and execute it. The idea is that the framework is as simple as possible, but no simpler. Here it is:

  1. Know the ultimate strategic objective
    All change is aligned to the strategic objective of the organisation, isn’t it? So all decisions will take the change towards the objective. The purpose here is to identify the key criteria that the decision must meet. This means some less important criteria will be jettisoned. But unless the criteria for an effective decision are minimised the search space for a solution just becomes too large. Focusing on a few key criteria may mean some stakeholders (lobbyists) are disappointed. So some stakeholder engagement is going to be needed.
  2. Think rationally about how your options align the ultimate objective
    Decision making is an attempt to peer into the future and make some judgements about what will happen. Hence the importance of risk management and using risk based information in effective decisions. The more risk work you do the better your understanding of what the future might hold. How do you know you are thinking rationally? Well put your knowledge to a few people who will question your assumptions and logic. Tasler proposes an ‘anti-you’ for this purpose. This process has two benefits: first the act of getting together your arguments and presenting them to someone else produces its own insights; and second the new perspective from another mind will broaden your own view. If it doesn’t then find someone else further from your own view.
  3. Do something with that knowledge and those thoughts
    Now you need to make a judgement on the options and the feedback you have received. It might be difficult and close to call. But call you must and move on. A decision made in a timely way will be much better than one not made at all waiting for the perfect knowledge and best possible outcome. This action will mean dropping some ‘good’ options. There will be more decisions in the future which can be used to correct an earlier decision that turned out to be inappropriate.

This decision making framework needs to be part of a decision plan identifying the necessary decisions in a change initiative. The schedule will indicate the latest possible time a decision is needed. There is no point making a decision until you have to; but then you must make that decision so it’s best to be prepared for it.

How well is decision making planned in your change initiative? Is it visible at all?


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