Making a decision can be a tricky business.
The main reason we delay making important decisions is our fear of potential pitfalls and consequences.
Here are five powerful techniques you can use to help you improve your decision-making and ensure that you make the best decision possible in any situation
1. Decision-making is personal
The value you put on a decision’s outcome is specific to you, especially when it concerns your personal life. It is specific to your unique circumstances, and therefore, it can be more important for you than it would be for another person.
The best way to navigate this pitfall is to decide on your own – or to be cautious when asking other people’s opinions. They will put their own value on the problem and may trivialise or exaggerate it.
By all means, listen to other opinions but never follow them blindly, or cave into peer pressure, or the need to confirm.
2. Clearly define your goals with PrOACT
This means establishing exactly what you want to get out of your decision and clearly envisioning the desired outcome.
The best way to do this is to use the PrOACT, an acronym for five principles of decision-making:
Problem: The way you frame the problem is the crucial first step to making the right decision. Identify the problem succinctly and clearly. For example, “This employee’s poor performer is negatively affecting team productivity.”
Objectives: Once you have defined the problem, the aim would be to improve team performance by dealing with the problem employee.
Alternatives: Here you need to come up with as many alternatives as possible, rather than just jump to the first one that comes to mind. For example, disciplining the employee, putting the employee on probation, transferring the employee to a less strategic role, or firing the employee.
Consequences: Weigh the consequences of each alternative based on how long the problem has existed, the seriousness of the impact it has had, complaints received, history of the employee’s performance, and so on. For example, discipline or probation may not be suitable alternatives if the employee has been warned repeatedly times and complaints from colleagues have been regular.
Trade-offs: Sometimes objectives may conflict, and in this case, you need to consider trade-offs. For example, you can’t afford to waste time firing an employee and hiring a new one at the current time as this would negatively impact workflow. The trade-off would then be to keep them on the team after disciplining them.
3. Apply the “effort equals importance” rule
It’s a no-brainer that the more important a decision is, the more time you should spend on it. The main pitfall you need to avoid here is to differentiate between a tough decision and an important one. They are not the same.
A tough decision is when you decide to buy a new washing machine and can’t decide between different models, styles, prices and all the cool things each one can do. But how important is that compared to deciding to start your own business? Now, that’s a decision you need to spend some serious time deliberating!
4. Apply a structured decision-making approach
Never decide haphazardly, no matter how clear-cut the decision may seem. Learn to approach each decision with a series of structured steps. Even if you have already more or less decided, use the PrOACT approach to confirm your outcomes.
5. Learn pattern recognition
Pattern recognition means drawing on your experience. With most decisions, you can usually find a past situation where you made a similar choice and remember whether the outcome was good or bad. You can then use that experience as a guideline for the current decision.
Making important decisions doesn’t need to be a stressful experience. It also doesn’t mean hours of poring over details and getting mired in confusion. And it certainly does not mean delaying a decision that needs to be made.
Hopefully, this article has shown you that decision-making can be fairly quick and effective if you just break everything down into small steps that help you navigate from start to end!
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