Ten tips to master decision making - Michelle Gibbings

Einstein is quoted as saying:  “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes about the solution.” 

Being the clever person he was, Einstein understood the power of deliberate decisions.  He recognised that good decisions don’t typically happen by accident.

It’s about leveraging the right mindset, being clear on the best process to use, and understanding how you apply these elements given the cultural context in which you are operating.

When you are leading change, you are called on to make decisions constantly.  Poor decision making can have horrible consequences and unintended outcomes.

The first step in advanced decision making is to know the type of decision you are making. Ask yourself:

  • Is it an easily defined problem with a relatively simple solution? If so, can I rely on instinct and gut reactions to make the decision?
  • Does the problem have a known cause and effect, with a range of possible solutions? If so, can I use a simple process based approach to solve the problem?
  • Is the situation ambiguous with many unknowns, so that the problem is hard to identify? If so, does the situation require an adaptive rather than technical solution?

How you answer these questions will help you determine the approach you need to take.

Here are ten key tips to consider to master your decision making:

1. Recognise that there is a spectrum of decision making – from instinct based to adaptive challenges. Different problems require different processes and tools.  It’s about taking a ‘fit for purpose’ approach.

2. Be conscious of the mindset that needs to be applied to the situation. For advanced decision making you need to be highly conscious of the bias that may impede your progress.

3. Take a deliberate approach to decision making and apply techniques to structure and minimise the likelihood of bias.

4. Make sure you are solving the right problem in the right way, based on the level of complexity and potential impacts.

5. When you need to use data to help you make a decision, take the time to base your decision on real data.

6. Look at what alternative options exist, including outlier perspectives. Sometimes the best solutions will come from unlikely sources. Don’t immediately discount something just because it doesn’t immediately resonate with you.  Be curious and open-minded.

7. Consider what trade-offs you will need to make. Making a decision typically means that you will be giving something else up.  Be clear on what you won’t be doing because of this decision.

8. A good decision is able to be implemented. There’s no point making a decision if you don’t have the capacity or capability to see it through.

9. Be open to different ideas and to having your assumptions challenged. Reflect on how you are reacting to these ideas – from both a head, heart and gut perspective.

10. Crucially, make sure you are having the right stakeholders involved at the right time, and that they are helping you examine the problem from multiple perspectives.

It was the well-known author of the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey, who said: “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions”.

Isn’t it time you took your decision making to a new level?

Change happens. Make it work for you.