Complex Decision Making

Video Transcript:

Hi, Lona here with Revela. Today I’m going to talk to you about complex decision making. We make quick decisions instantaneously, and most of the time without much conscious thought. This works really well if we need to decide what we’re having for lunch or if we’re going to take an afternoon walk; but what if the decision we are trying to make is more complex and requires more analytical thinking?

Decisions that could have an impact on your organization. Where you’re going to invest your resources. How you’re going to structure your departments. Even when we believe we are considering all of our options and weighing the potential risks, we may still be unaware of how our thinking is distorted by our biases, emotions, and past experiences.

Recently I recorded a video where I discussed organizational conflict and the importance of seeking out those who see things differently than you. Learning to lean into disagreement and debate. And these skills are crucial part of good decision making as well. However today I want to focus on a different aspect of decision making and hopefully give you a few tools that you could use when you have a complex decision to make.

  • Start with making a list of assumptions that you have in relation to the issue. List even those that you think are obvious assumptions, and ask others to help you develop this list as well. You want to get as much information as possible to ensure that you first completely understand the issue that you are working through.
  • Then ask yourself, “How do I know that these assumptions are true? What’s my evidence of that?” Take the time to gather the relevant information to either prove or disprove your assumptions. You may find that you unearth information that you weren’t previously considering, or that you’ve held an assumption that ends up not being true.
  • Only once you’ve completely vetted the issue and have a coherent understanding of the facts and assumptions that you will be basing your decision on, should you move to idea generation. Know at this point that when you begin to explore new ideas, there will be a high level of uncertainty, and that’s okay. A common mistake that I see in some groups that I work with is that they try to refine the issues too soon. There will be plenty of time for that later. At this phase, you just want to focus on generating rough ideas. And over time and with more discussion, you will find that two or three options will stand out more so than others.
  • Once you have narrowed it down to two or three options, it’s time to systematically work to reduce uncertainty in these options as you move through the final step in the process. You will begin to ask yourself and your team a series of questions. Here’s a sample of what those questions might look like:
    • Have we compared this idea to similar initiatives or decisions either internally or externally to the organization?
    • What lessons can we learn from the past, and how was this initiative different?
    • What do we have to gain from one idea compared to another idea that we are debating?
    • What’s the worst case scenario if the initiative fails?
    • What’s a backup plan if this decision is not successful?

You may think of other questions that are relevant to the issue that you are working through, and you’ll want to make sure that you ask those. But going through a systematic decision making process allows you to weigh your options and begin to decrease uncertainty. Additionally, you may want to see an outside resource such as a facilitator or a coach that can help keep the process on track and ensure that alternative ideas and assumptions are tested throughout the process.

Finally once you’ve reached a decision that you are comfortable with, it’s time to act. What are you going to do?

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