Making Decisions

The current coronavirus outbreak serves to throw an insight into how we go about making a decision. In the past few weeks we have seen a variety of decision making by nations, organisations and individuals; some appear to lack logic others border upon overreaction.

The reality is that decision making is a very individualised process, that is driven by emotion as much as it is driven by logic or evidence. Equally few decisions are wrong as they are often made with access to limited information. A decision may be the right decision at the point it was made, but become the wrong decision because we failed to adapt to emerging information.

For a number of years I have been guided by an adaptive decision making framework developed by Roger Martin, when he was Dean of Rotman School of Business in Toronto. At the heart of this framework is the question, what’s important?

It’s an insightful question, and I believe this framework may be applied to all decision making, either personal or organisational. What’s Important? Allied to this question is another that explores relationships and impacts of the issue and another that seeks to explore a range of options, rather than a single, hard and fast option. Together this helps to shape adaptive thinking and decision making.

When you are faced with a need to make a decision start by asking what’s important. Often we allow other stuff, the unimportant stuff, to impose upon our decision making processes. You need to push the unimportant stuff to one side, however to do that you must first understand what is important.

In identifying what is important you create clarity. Your focus is then upon the right thing. That will help you to make the right choice.

Each of us makes dozens, if not hundreds of decisions each day. The majority of decisions we make are done intuitively. This is healthy. Our brain is designed to store data to enable this intuitive decision making. It saves us time, reduces stress and enables reasonably safe decisions to be made on the run.

Its the slightly more complex decisions that require us to pause, reflect and ask questions. Starting with asking what is important. If you have a decision to make and your intuitive decision making ability appears unable to cope, the process is causing you stress, you find yourself conflicted, are faced with multiple sources of data or are just not sure what to do next, grab a pencil and paper and write down the answer to the question, what is important? It might just help steer you in the right direction.

John Coxon has been providing advice and guidance to managers within the social services sector for the past 20 years. Today his focus is upon providing organisations with tools to help them identify potential for improvement.



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