Tag Archives: decision

Reduce options by making big decisions first

Reduce options by making big decisions firstHow can you make good decisions when there are so many options? Start with the biggest decisions and eliminate other outcomes. But always keep some backup options open in case it goes wrong.

It might probably sound familiar: you’re in the supermarket to do the weekly shopping for your family and you don’t know what to buy. You browse each section and there’s a lot of stuff you could buy. But what do you really need and where do you start? Typically I would buy “the regular stuff” we need and during the week find out that we haven’t got (enough of) ingredient X to make dinner. Which leads to another trip to the store.

Making the biggest decisions first reduces possible outcomes and combinations. In this case: what are you going to eat for dinner? Today, tomorrow and the rest of the week. You don’t have to make a strict planning for each day, but you need to get it fixed for a few of them to make life easier. When you know what’s for dinner, you know which ingredients you need.

Because the biggest decision is made, you can focus and take the next decisions. Ok, spaghetti’s up for dinner tomorrow. Which version are we going to make: napolitana, carbonara or vegetarian? When you take the next decision, the number of options go down again and it gets easier to select. For carbonara spaghetti you need meat, paprika, tomatoes and onion.

Keep some alternative options open, just in case. You never know what can change between the visit to the store and preparing your spaghetti. That’s why it’s handy to keep an alternative option open that allows you to switch easily. Also buy a zucchini and eggplant, just in case a friend of the family joins as a vegetarian.

Enjoy your meal!

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Dare to decide – Decision-making insights from practice

Last week I attended a lunch session “Dare to decide” which handled the topic of taking (difficult) decisions. The speakers were Philip H. and Jan N. Both were divers, one from the sky and one into the sea.

We all take thousands of decisions each day. Amongst them there are decisions which are well thought of, others could be more impulsive. In most cases the context where we take our decisions is pretty save. In the situation of the presenters, the context could be live threatening, for example while the sky diver heads to the ground at 200 kilometers an hour. Preparing well does make a difference.

Scuba Sky Diving

Taking decisions = taking risks

When you take decisions you are actually thinking of everything that will happen … and can go wrong (remark: if not, you should consider to do it at least a bit). If there were no consequences, decision taking would be a hell of a lot easier. But we are human and we like to think ahead.

While in both sky and scuba diving there are strict regulations regarding safety, both sportsmen still need to do a lot of checks themselves. One person sees more risks than another, but the goal is to do something with it. To mitigate them.

Risk mitigation consists of assessing the risk first and next taking appropriate. These actions could be: accepting, transferring, avoiding and decreasing the chance.

The speakers share some tips to mitigate these risks:

  • Keep it simple
  • Make your setting fool-proof
  • Do a strict control
  • Create backup systems in case something does go wrong
  • Setup a strict training program
  • Train for emergency and rescue situations
  • Make clear agreements about responsibilities and accountability
  • Execute checkups before the start

Insights from practice

There’s more to decision-making than only risk management and mitigation. Both speakers share some insights.

If you cannot prevent all risks, invest in monitoring them.

It could be possible that not all risks can be mitigated. In this case you should invest in equipment to monitor them. For example, for sky diving they have altitude meters and automatic parachute extraction systems, for scuba diving you have an air pressure meter.

Try to understand opposers

If somebody doesn’t agree with your approach, try to listen and understand instead of defending your position. There’s probably some truth in what they’re saying and try to look at it from their perspective: “Why do they see it as a risk?”.

Take chance and seriousness into account

There’s no need to invest a lot of money to mitigate small, non-relevant risks. Serious risks with a high chance should be looked into for sure. For example, the need for a backup parachute covers the risk of your main parachute not opening.

Not deciding is deciding that you don’t

The biggest risk is … not deciding at all. In that case you’re actually deciding notto do something!

Trust yourself

Make an estimation of the situation and learn to trust your decision.

Learn from failures

Not everything goes right every time. The biggest waste would be not to learn something from it. Ask questions like: What happened? What can we learn from it? How can we prevent it next time?

It’s this reflexion that made extreme sports like sky and scuba diving rather save during the years.

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We read for you: The Right Decision Every Time

The Right Decision Every Time - book coverWe take thousands of decisions each day and you actually just took another one when starting to read this review (and you took another one after reading the first line). Some of these decisions are minor, some of these are major. With thousands of decisions a day you could say it’s an important part of our live, and of your job. Still, few people can state how they exactly make or made their decisions, and few people have actually got some education about decision taking.

Did you ever had the feeling that you took an important decision, but had immediate remorse after it? Are you awake at night thinking of what to do? You probably did not decide with confidence or aren’t aware of everything. The Right Decision Every Time gets you acquainted with some of the hurdles in the decision making progress: lack of a clear objective, lack of constraints, dealing with emotions, lack of a clear perspective and difficulty in selecting options.

The author, Luda Kopeikina, proposes to use a decision map which you fill in during the process, and it’s really simple. Each of the steps will make you explicitly reflect about it.

Some important takeaways from the book:

  • If you have to make a though decision, go into what is called “the Clarity State”. Clear your head, focus on the decision, no multi-tasking. The key in making great decisions is to focus your physical, mental and emotional resources.
  • It’s ok to get emotional when you’re taking decisions. You are not a robot. Acknowledge the emotions and figure why they matter. Detach and use them.
  • The decision objective is not the decision question! Eg. “what is the best way to spread Root Cause Analysis best pratices?” –> “what is the best way to help people start with doing RCA?”
  • Think positive: formulate your constraints as objectives to overcome the concerns they are based on. Eg. “I’m concerned for the acceptance of the metrics” –> “Constraint: gain acceptance for the metrics”.
  • The clearer your decision definition, the better you can work with it and defined possible options.
  • If you’re still in doubt after deciding, you probably didn’t take everything into account.
  • Make sure it’s clear to you if you need to make the decision, or that only your advice is needed.
  • If you assume, you make an ASS  of U and ME.
  • Try to look at the decision from another perspective. Expand your view. Take a longer time frame. Turn the decision around. Why would happen if you would not take it?

So is this book a good read? Well, the main focus of The Right Decision Every Time is on getting into the Clarity State, so the major part of the book handles this state, its importance and how you can reach it. The book has many example stories so you can see how the decision map is used in practice, but after reading it I had the feeling a whitepaper could have been a better medium than a 250 page book.

Additional reading

How to Make the Right Decision Every Time

The Right Decision Every Time at Amazon.com

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