I hope everyone is enjoying the build-up to Christmas. This is slowly but surely becoming one of my favorite times of the year. I think it has something to do with the fact that I can get away with whistling Christmas carols without people looking at my funny. In any case, I don’t foresee this being a long article this weekend. I’ve been maxing out at work the last couple of weeks which has minimized my writing time. That being said, I want to keep my weekly pattern going. Last month marked the 1 year anniversary of Bootstraps. I’m so happy with the year’s worth of progress, so happy with myself for sticking with it and most of all I’m so happy for all of you who have been along for the ride with me. If you’ve gotten half as much out of it as I have then it’s been a win/win.
Decision making is one of the most important skills that we have, both and work and at home. The ability to make high quality decisions quickly is one of the key traits shared by successful people. It makes me laugh at myself when I say that because it convicts me for the willy-nilly way that I make decisions around the house. At home decisions are typically based on a quick calculation of priority, emergency and effort. In other words:
Do I have to get off the couch? Yes.
Is it an emergency? No.
Ok, I’ll make it a priority later.
Ok, it’s not that bad, well, not all the time. I should probably do something about it, but it doesn’t seem like an emergency, I’ll make sure to get to it later :-).
While our decision making at home can be suspect (re: lazy), we don’t get that luxury at work. The decisions that we make throughout the day at work drive our reputation and ultimately our success. Yet for some people it seems that their process is no more rigorous than flippant way I described my process at home. It doesn’t have to be that way though. There is actually a common factor that can be used to predict good decision making and poor decisions making – Information.
Have you ever tried to make a significant decision without information? It’s almost impossible. At work right now I’m trying to make long term decisions about allocating money and resources on a project. It isn’t supposed to be difficult, but we lack information. How are we supposed to accurately project that amount of time or money that we need in a given bucket if we don’t know whether or not that bucket will receive support from a different budget?
A lack of information can render the best planning effort unsuccessful. As a result, you have to try and push back the date of the final decision until addition information becomes available. It’s not always possible though. Eventually you’ll have to act on your decisions. It’s only after the fact that you’ll learn what you needed to know at the beginning. Unfortunately at that point it might be too late to adjust plans to try and achieve success.
With as much frustration that I’ve experienced with this situation that I just described it shocks me to see people elect to make quick decisions without even ever looking for additional information. I’ve always been known as a quick decision maker because I like to walk out meetings with clearly defined instructions and goals. But that doesn’t prevent me from asking for more information. I realize that I don’t know everything and need some support (even as prideful as I am).
My standard move when a decision point comes up is to slow things down. I’ll ask about the obvious options. I’ll ask about the process that a person has gone through to arrive at this situation and these options. I’ll ask about the alternatives that occur to me and how they might impact the outcome. I will ask as many questions as I need to in an effort to give myself the comfort that I haven’t been placed in a lose-lose situation with the decision in front of me.
I think it’s important to ask questions, engage in conversation and make sure that all of the bases have been covered before finalizing something. Interestingly, I’ve seen people adapt to me in this regard. People who work with me for a good length of time start trying to find answers to my potential questions and think of additional questions to answer before putting the situation in front of me. Many times, thanks to their due diligence the appropriate decision is extremely obvious. I’m always thrilled when this happens because the reality is that the person doing the due diligence has learned for themselves what level of effort and information is necessary to make a good decision.
That’s my advice for you. If you want to become a better decision maker then don’t be shy and don’t be afraid of looking ignorant. Ask as many questions as you need to, think of alternatives, make sure others have done their due diligence and don’t take things for granted.
Posted on December 10, 2011, in Career Development and tagged Advice, business, Decision making, Due Diligence, Lazy thinking, Problem Solving, Questions, Work. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.