April  2008     Edition 36
Making Decisions

Ever think about what goes into making a decision?

  Some people make decisions quickly, some slowly.  Some need a lot of information, some need only a little. There are terms that describe decision making such as  “Decisive”, “Indecisive”, Procrastination, Analysis Paralysis, “Shoot from the hip”, “Thoughtful”, “Impulsive”, etc.   Why is that?

The Who

. “Who is the decision maker?” is certainly the easiest question to ask and answer.  Is it an individual or a team?  Will there be a vote?  Does it have to be unanimous, or just a majority, or 2/3rds?.  Too often decisions to be made are discussed without a clear understanding of who will make the call.  This leads to delay and confusion.

The What

.  “What decision” to make is a function of weighing the upsides and downsides and the probability that they will occur.  The proverbial “Reward vs Risk” conversation.  The result of this thinking ranges from “no brainer” to “no way”.   Your values, hopes, fears, and assumptions play a big role here.  We’ll cover this in more depth in another edition.

The When

.  In this edition, let’s look at  “The When” aspect of making a decision.  Ever make a proposal or suggestion and your manager or work associate just “sits on it”.  Nothing happens, not a yes or a no.   Sometimes more information is requested.   Sometimes you get that “I need to think about it” response.  You wait .. still no answer.   Why is that?  A decision might be waiting on information, but most of the time, and especially after the information is presented, the timing of “When” is related to two conditions.

The Criteria

for making a decision must be clear. If it is not, then the decision maker might continue to ask questions or require information as they meander around until they get clear.  The notion of  “I’ll know it when I see it”, is generally an excuse not to just sit down and do the work.  How often does someone ask “What is the criteria for this decision?”. Conversely if the criteria is well defined, it’s ususally a straightforward process to obtain what will satisfy that criteria.

The Need.

If the decision maker has no need to make a decision, then many times a decision will not be made.  This sounds a bit strange, but think about procrastination.  You put off doing something (making a decision and doing it), because in many cases you don’t need to do it earlier.  “Need” can be “Perceived Need”, so if the person, or you, doesn’t perceive the need to make the decision now, then it won’t be made until later.

The Takeaway:
   Whether a decision is yours, or you’re waiting on someone else, ask yourself a few questions:  Can you identify the “need” that this decision is addressing?  Can you clearly identify the critieria that will be used to make a decision?  When decisions are not being made, it’s either because the critieria for making the decision is not clear, or there is just no need to make it.  If this happens, go find the need, and help define the criteria.

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