The decision-making process is not static. It is a dynamic process that requires action, evaluation and ultimately follow up. Many of us fail to fully execute and achieve the results we want, because we stop before we have completed the decision-making process. With this in mind, it’s important to take the decision making process APART:
- Analyze the information you currently have.
- Pause and identify options – don’t limit during this step, put down every thought that comes to mind without regard to resources, time, money, or likelihood of “really” having that option.
- Analyze the options you’ve identified and pursue out of the box ways to pursue the options.
- Review the decision to be made, parameters, options identified, resources available and those that you may be able to obtain, and
- THINK it through.
As you become accustomed to following this process, you will find that you are challenging your own pre-established concepts of what you can and cannot do.
Analyze: Define the Problem, Opportunity and Options, But Avoid Analysis Paralysis
Have you ever heard of “analysis paralysis”? This happens when people become so involved in analyzing a situation they cannot make a decision or take an action because the analysis is never complete enough. As a consequence, opportunities are missed, problems grow, and the “default” option of doing nothing becomes standard operating procedure. Unfortunately many businesses are paralyzed and don’t know what to do to break the cycle. Just as unfortunate are those entities that fail to do any or enough analysis to make reasoned decisions. The companies that don’t perform any analysis or make a token effort are in just as dire a situation as those caught up in over-analysis.
In decision-making, it is important to lay the groundwork and foundation for making a decision. This initial analysis and review of available information and data enables the decision-maker to do one of two things depending upon the individual’s decision style. One, the process of gathering information and data to analyze enables the scope and alternatives to be defined. Two, the process can serve as validation of the “gut instinct” that many managers and business owners use to make decisions. If you are gut instinct type of manager, it is almost always beneficial to step back from your current frame of reference and look to see if you can find any information or support for your intuitiveness. If you are the “manage by the numbers” type, you may find that going through an information-gathering process will enable you to incorporate qualitative inputs into your thought process.
Analysis as the first step challenges the decision-maker to look beyond what is expected and known and see out the opposite type of information that is usually (and most comfortably) used. The quantitative mind is asked to seek out qualitative information. The intuitive mind is asked to find quantitative/numeric information to bolster his/her thought process.
Pause: Evaluate, Examine and Identify
If you have ever had a heated disagreement with anyone, you know that one way to get a handle on your emotions and reactions is to take a deep breath and pause, to step back from the situation and evaluate the information and perspective of the other party. This pause enables you to look around and understand what you already know, what you can identify as alternatives based on what you know, and plan your next action … instead of your next reaction.
In the decision-making process, taking a time out to disengage from analysis will enable you to avoid analysis paralysis and provide an opportunity to determine if you have enough information to find viable, reasonable and logical alternatives … not to mention a few off-the-wall ideas and hopefully some out-of-the-box thinking. A pause in decision-making enables you to step back and examine what you have already done—and what may still need to be done—to make a sound decision.
Think of the pause as taking a deep breath during an argument and putting yourself outside the emotional aspects of a process to check your perspective and your frame of reference. The pause is significant, much like looking at one of those optical illusion/perspective pictures in which you can either see a vase or two profiles of men facing each other. Everything in life and decision-making is, at least in part, a matter of perspective.
Analyze with New Perspective
After you have taken time to look at your information and options, it is time to get down to the heart of decision-making: Finding ways to execute the alternatives identified previously and get an understanding of what it will take individually and/or as an organization to pursue each option. Resources, time, money, and additional decisions to be made should be identified in this step. This enables further definition of each alternative for viability and for impact on the entirety of the organization or situation.
Yes, it’s more analysis. Not over analysis, but enough to ensure that the options you’re considering are viable and that the impact is substantially understood. No decision is made in a vacuum, so a decision made can have a domino effect on other decisions pending and those previously made. Each decision can significantly impact the organization’s capability to maintain the planned direction and may require a reassessment and evaluation of strategic plans, budgets, staffing and more.
Looking at the situation in this phase of the decision-making process is about making sure that the majority of identifiable factors have been identified and the ramifications on them are understood. For instance, a decision made about the marketing plan and sales efforts will impact other aspects of the organization. If you decide to expand your sales and marketing efforts, you will likely be impacting customer service, accounting, order fulfillment/staffing and a host of “back-office” activities. You may also need to recruit and train additional sales team members, and actually cut overall capacity during the training cycle because you chose to rely on existing sales staff to do the training. Again nothing is executed in isolation, so understanding cross-functional and cross-systems impacts is critical.
Review the Decision
You’ve analyzed not once, but twice. You’ve attempted to step outside the box of your normal decision-making and thought process, and paused to consider multiple perspectives. Now it is time to make the decision and review the factors that contributed to your decision. Did you go strictly off of quantitative measures, or did you take into consideration some qualitative factors? Did you look at both short term and long term impacts? Do you know who, what, when and how different areas of the business will be changed? Do you know how the dominoes are lined up?
This review process is the precursor to implementation and gives you a last look to identify gaps, changes in information, and the possibility of making some major or minor tweaks to your ideas and plans. This is the “Ready, Set, GO!” phase of the decision process. You are ready to pull the trigger, but not quite yet …
Think it Through
If you execute your plan today, what do you know? What can you see as the next logical step? How does the organization proceed? Does everyone understand their roles and responsibilities? Are you prepared to communicate the objectives and direction to the organization and critical resources? Can you get the resources you need if you don’t already have them to make this happen? What happens if this was the wrong decision? Do you have an action plan on how you will monitor results and outcomes and make any corrective actions that are needed as the decision is implemented?
To Decide Not to Decide Is a Decision
Making sure your decisions stand APART, because the process you use to make decisions is a reliable method, goes a long way toward being able to make sound decisions and being able to support them if something goes wrong during or after implementation. A “bad” decision made from good information and a sound process is a decision that can be learned from and forgiven. A bad decision made without thought or process can have significant consequences in which no one wants to rely on your advice or won’t give you a chance to make another “mistake.”
The ability to examine our decision-making process enables us to improve it. Making a decision without having the ability to understand where the process went wrong won’t enable you to improve your decision-making skills, and may even lead to analysis paralysis, causing you to hesitate to make any decision.
The inability to make a decision or take action is in and of itself a decision. You have decided not to make a decision and just let things happen. Unfortunately, when things “just happen” there is every chance that you will spend your time reacting and explaining how things have gone wrong.
So step up and stand APART when making decisions: Analyze, Pause, Analyze, Review and Think!
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