Thursday, June 3, 2010

How Do You Make a Good Decision?

Dear Yin Weaver,

Since we're on the topic of decision making this week, I thought I'd drop in a quick article here (see below) on the subject.  Of course, I know you can surf the web as easily as I can, but let me tell you...the hardest decision I had to make was choosing which article to cut and paste!  If you know of a better one, or have your own techniques for making a good decision, let me know! 

I found another website on decision making I decided was too complicated to reproduce here.  But it's worth checking out.  Here's a bit of wisdom from Decision Making Confidence:  We all have freedom of choice, but you will never have freedom of consequences.  Choose wisely.


Simple Laws for Making Good Decisions
from Good Decision Makers

Charles Foster, PhD

I have spent 10 years studying decision makers -- identifying 35 people who generally make good decisions and 35 people who frequently make bad decisions... then watching over time as they make big decisions.

My research has led me to two conclusions...

Good decisions come from disciplined thinking. If you follow the basic laws of decision making, most of your plans will work out. Think haphazardly when you make a decision and little of what you plan will pan out.

They are habit-forming. Each time you make the right decision, you gain the necessary self-confidence to keep making good decisions. That’s why following the laws of decision making is crucial.

Here are seven rules for making great decisions...

Focus on the most important thing. This seems obvious, but it is the decision-making principle that is most often violated. People overload the decision-making process with so many variables that what’s really important gets lost.

Example: Most decisions only require you to answer one yes or no question, such as, Do we launch this product? But then someone says, What about this? and someone else says, What about that?

What should have been a straight-forward decision gets confused by minor considerations. You lose the focus for making the right decision.

In every decision, one factor usually is the most important. Close your eyes, and concentrate on that element, forgetting all other considerations. Once you’re focused only on what’s most important, the odds are you’ll make the right decision. Everything else is a detail.

Turn big decisions into a series of little decisions. Some decisions appear overwhelming. You want to focus on what’s most important, but there are so many unknowns that your focus gets blurred.

Example: Taking a new job means learning new skills, moving to a new city, etc. With so many variables to juggle, you wind up making a bad decision -- or no decision at all.

Break that big decision into several smaller, more manageable decisions.

Take time to study the new employer in depth. Decide if it is a company you really want to work for. Spend a few days in the new city. Decide if you want to live there.

After you make all the little decisions, the big decision will essentially be made.

Base your decision on self-acceptance. Self-acceptance covers a lot of ground…

What you like.

What you’re interested in.

What you’re good at.

Any decision based on who you really are... how you really work... what you really like... probably will work out.

Problem: People think a decision will transform them from who they are to who they would like to be. Job offers aren’t measured by suitability -- as they should be -- but by whether they will make them better people. Their future becomes hostage to that lack of self-acceptance. A decision made under such circumstances is a disaster waiting to happen.

Ask yourself what you really like and what makes you comfortable. If the decision won’t add to your feeling of comfort, it probably would prove to be a bad decision.

Consider all the good things your decision can bring. Decision making is, for many people, an exercise in disaster avoidance.

Instead of making the decision that might cause something wonderful to happen, we often make the decision we hope will hurt us the least.

Reality check: There’s nothing wrong with running through possible negative outcomes when making a decision. It would be foolish to make decisions on the assumption that nothing could go wrong. But decisions turn sour when you fail to examine positive scenarios as well.

The decision-making process must be fueled by the possibility that your decision will lead to something wonderful -- a new career, a stronger marriage, etc.

Keep reworking the decision until you see it leading to something wonderful. If you rework the decision and nothing wonderful emerges, you risk making the wrong decision.

Get what you need to make your decision a success. Especially in business, this rule gets broken again and again. A meeting ends with the decision to do such-and-such, but no plans are made to implement the decision.

Example: Many dot-coms recently went under because they had no plans for obtaining all the capital they would need to feed the beast.

If there is no passion to implement the decision -- or if you know in advance that the resources you need won’t be available -- you haven’t decided anything. It is window dressing meant to satisfy someone’s ego or to be included in a report to show your department is on the ball.

Start with how you’re going to implement your decision and work backward.

Keep things as simple as possible. Even smart people break this law. Because they see the big picture, they want the decision to cover every issue that might arise. They draft plans so that no possibility is overlooked.

Reality: The more things that can go wrong, the more things that probably will go wrong. Keep the number of things that must go right for the decision to succeed to an absolute minimum.

Venture capitalists are justifiably wary of overly complicated plans for a new business. Business plans that are easy to grasp are the ones that are most likely to get funding.

Consider all your options. I have never met a decision maker -- good or bad -- who had checked out all possible options. Invariably, I come up with options never considered.

Example: Think back to when you mislaid your keys or your wallet. You convinced yourself that you had looked everywhere. But when you found them, chances are they were someplace you hadn’t looked.

Don’t assume you know everything there is to know to make a good decision. Talk to people who are more experienced about the subject than you are. Ask what they would consider when making the same decision. Not only will they present you with new options, their insights could completely change the way you think about the decision.


Bottom Line/Personal interviewed Charles Foster, PhD, MBA, director of The Chestnut Hill Institute in Boston, a research and consulting firm focusing on the psychology of business success. He is author of What Do I Do Now: Dr. Foster’s 30 Laws of Great Decision Making (Simon & Schuster).

No comments:

Post a Comment