DDLLC 2016-001 Basic Imperatives of the Decision Making Process

Okay, let’s begin with the beginning. You have to know the key tenets to decision making and they have to be so embedded in your psyche, in your soul, that they are intuitive. Knowing these simple elements will ensure you reach the best set of favorable solutions no matter how big or how small, no matter how simple or complex. Whether you are trying to decide for yourself what to have for dinner tonight or you are leading an international team toward the future governance of Jerusalem. These steps keep you on a certain path of success.

First you must [1] DEFINE your PROBLEM. Let me repeat that. You must first and foremost define your problem. What are you trying to solve? You cannot go onto step two until this has been done. Many will disagree. Of course, I don’t really care. You will avoid wasted time and energy and you will spare yourself much frustration if you will just do this first. Yes, you can go back and refine it. Yes, the more complicated a problem, or the more dynamic a situation, or the more new facts become known the more you must be willing to update and refine the problem, but start with a clearly defined problem statement nonetheless.

Once you’ve formulated your problem statement you can then move onto step two. Now, I am explaining this process in grand generalities for the moment and working to ensure you understand the basic elements before we graduate to large scale collective geo-political decision making. These are the ‘crawl’ steps. We’ll get into ‘walking’ and ‘running’, root cause analysis and all that jazz later. But for now, let’s agree to keep it simple. I mean, you must first command yourself, if you have difficulty balancing your own checkbook or sticking to a personal budget, then you probably don’t need to preside over your company’s budget. So, these decision steps should be first personalized and then extrapolated for your use in management and leadership.

Step two is [2] GATHERING the facts and INFORMATION pertinent to your problem. This is a research phase. If deciding where to eat dinner tonight for yourself it could be as easy as determining how far you want to travel, what you have an appetite for, how much money you want to fork over, past experiences with certain locations, time of day, etc… etc… You get the idea.

Hand in glove with determining the factors bearing on your problem is discounting those factors that do not. If you are sitting in your apartment and you’re hungry and you decide to run out to get something to eat, but you know your car just has enough gas to get you through the week, so you want to go somewhere within walking distance, then there is no reason to think about places beyond which you are willing to walk. This sounds simple and perhaps a little stupid, but anyone who has worked on collaborative decision making understands the frustration the team experiences when one or more members keeps bringing up ideas that have previously been screened out as options.

So, now you’ve exhausted your list of facts, assumptions, information useful to solving the problem. It’s time to move into step three. You can now, and only now, I know I’m being extremely sequential, bear with me, [3] LIST YOUR OPTIONS.

This again, in my 30 years of experience is an extreme point of discontent, because there is always a spoiler or two in any planning group who wants to start shouting out options before you have finished gathering the facts and information on the problem. Or worse, they want to exclaim solutions before you’ve even defined the problem. You’ve been in a situation before where you and your roommate were in a discussion where one of you thought you were discussing where to ‘eat’ tonight and the other thought you were discussing what you were going to ‘do’ tonight. These are similar. But, the seemingly minor piece of confusion on what problem you were solving wasted time and created friction unnecessarily.

So, you’ve finished step 3, you’ve listed the options available based on the information you have on hand. You are ready to make a decision. Step four then is the critical moment of truth; [4] DECIDING. In the over simplified example of deciding where to eat, you have both eliminated those places out of reach geographically or by expense and you have narrowed the list to those few places that meet your criteria. But, nothing will make the decision for you as to which place you will eat. You cannot afford to vacillate. This is your moment of truth. Where will you eat dinner tonight?

Now, that’s it. It’s that simple and that straightforward. But for those of you who know how to read a compass, one degree of deviation is exacerbated over distance. These four steps are imperative in building large complex teams focused and aligned toward achieving great plans.

Future lessons will all build and refer to this first piece. Go Team Go!