Decision Making 101

Knowledge workers today make many hundreds of choices about their work, life and where to focus their energy each and every day. In light of the number of decisions we make, the significance of any one of them, and the seemingly unlimited number of resources we have to manage all our actions and projects, it’s more and more important to make good decisions, quickly. Better, timelier decision-making will enhance your workflow systems and facilitate smoother, more focused control of your life and work commitments. There are several ways you can make good decisions; here are a few that work in the knowledge economy.

  1. Decide immediately. Make the next action decision immediately. Perhaps the next action calls for more research, or a phone call to clarify some facts. Capture that action somewhere out of your head, into your system that you review on a daily or even hourly basis. The stress of non-action usually comes from putting off that little bit of thinking necessary to dispatch something when it shows up. Proactive and “on-target” thinking will facilitate better decision-making.
  2. Collect “intelligence.” Gather relevant and accessible intelligence. Sometimes, a lack of information can hold someone back from making a decision. If this is the case, coordinate efforts to easily add new information that can facilitate deciding. One way to manage this is to use short blocks of time to collect raw data. First, give yourself a set time (15-30 minutes maximum) to collect. Then, after this, you should review that information looking for appropriate data to support a decision. It does help to separate the “collect” phase from the process and review stage.
  3. Talk about it. Have a pointed and detailed conversation. Meet with a core group (2-4 people seems to work the best) of colleagues by starting with a clear, concise, written description of the issue and decision to be made. Consider using a timer or stopwatch and brainstorm, as a small group, as many approaches as possible in 10-20 minutes. Then, either individually or as a team, decide on at least one next action step to take to begin moving forward on your situation or decision.
  4. Sleep on it. If you have the luxury of several days before a final decision must be made, this technique is extremely valuable. To start with, create a brainstorm or mind sweep by writing down ALL the ideas you have had regarding that decision already. Then, write on a 3X5 card a clear description of that problem or situation. Read this paragraph several times before going to sleep two or three nights in a row. Creative brainstorming toward the end of decision-making is one way to reach resolution.
  5. Expansion thinking. Think outside the box. There are about as many ways to make decisions as real-life things to decide! Sometimes it is helpful to use a different thinking or planning method. For example, consider bringing a detailed description of the issue to another department in your firm, or even a group of people older or younger (by at least one generation) than you are. Ask them what THEY would do! Even though the may not have THE answer, this kind of thinking may be just what you can use to come up with your own solution to your situation.Effective, timely, and accurate decision-making is perhaps your single-most strategic and competitive advantage. An effective and productive workflow system demands that you are up-to-date on the decisions that need to have been made, as well as ready for the next one, at any moment! To be more productive, consider practicing making a decision quickly and clearly, even if the next action seems simple, or just a small step forward. Use any or all of the suggested techniques to enhance your personal and interactive productivity.

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