Business owners and managers always rely on making the right decisions, in terms of following trends and bringing innovative ways to make their business more successful.
But dealing with the process of making decisions and making the right choices, with risks of failure and success factors on the way, is seldom an easy task. Many professionals have problems connected to insecurity and not enough intel to deem confidence and take properly balanced risks when coming up with a decision.
While no one can establish a clear view on the definite outcomes of a decision, one must think ahead in terms of considering the possible ones, and make a quality risk assessments before implementing any decisions.
Decision making guidance serves a linear process compiled of few stages, among which the basic steps are:
- Identify the problem
- Generate alternative solutions
- Evaluate and choose among alternative solutions
- Implement and monitor the chosen solution
But if you consider the decision making process as a linear one, you cannot just stop at the steps above and wonder how to go through with each, without considering a methodology for the decision making.
Here are three simple methods that can provide you with guidance when making a decision:
1. Make a pros and cons sheet
The first way to go through the decision making and elaborate alternatives and outcomes is through the use of a balance sheet. This technique is very useful in problem solving, and I guess decision making and problem solving are interconnected, as they both need to reach an outcome.
What you do is take a simple pen and paper, and draw a line on the middle, making one side free for pros and other for cons. You elaborate why a certain alternative is better or has smaller risks, in comparison to the others, for which you have also made assumptions about. This balance sheet method is a very practical one, and relies on documenting facts and assumptions, and though it may seem too subjective, is a valuable method to support the decision making process.
“As a bull market turns into a bear market, the new pros turn into optimists, hoping and praying the bear market will become a bull and save them. But as the market remains bearish, the optimists become pessimists, quit the profession, and return to their day jobs. This is when the real professional investors re-enter the market.” – Robert Kiyosaki
2. Use the technique six thinking hats
Another decision making methodology is the use of a very stimulating technique, that is called Six Thinking Hats. You can see the more visual interpretation of its description in the mind map below.
The six thinking hats technique, encompasses a way to introduce six ways to look at things: facts, feelings, process, creativity, benefits and cautions, and they are all represented by six different colors for a more stimulating effect.
While “wearing” each hat, the person looks at the decision from different perspectives, giving a variety in the choosing, but a way to stimulate the risk assessment and the scores of possible outcomes.
The white hat is the objective view on the situation and relies only on facts, data and figures, without considering subjective thinking or emotions. The blue hat signifies control of the process and is used to manage the thinking process by observing guidelines of the process.
The red hat marks feelings and relies on intuition, and places emotions without explanation. The green hat is focused on creativity and freshness of ideas and induces lateral thinking. The yellow hat symbolizes the optimistic side of looking onto outcomes and explores the positive values and benefits of the situation. The black hat is the critical thinking hat where the risks and negative sides are being considered.
3. Mind mapping
I am a fan of new concepts and frequently incorporate another famous technique into the decision making process, called mind mapping.
Mind mapping is a visual technique to organize ideas and information. The product of mind mapping is called a mind map and is nothing else that a specific diagram, representing a central topic branching out to subtopics that elaborate the central subject, in this case a problem or a decision to be made. This tool is used to generate, visualize and structure ideas and aids decision making and problem solving, by being able to see the big picture.
“Many think of memory as rote learning, a linear stuffing of the brain with facts, where understanding is irrelevant. When you teach it properly, with imagination and association, understanding becomes a part of it.” – Tony Buzan
Since we cannot surmise all advices or tips to take into account when delivering any decision, or when you go through the decision making process, but you can take into account some of the following:
- Make sure you are sufficiently informed and put aside any conflicts of interest;
- Value information and document it in any form as evidence;
- Take account of all relevant factors and ignore any irrelevant ones;
- Always think through actions that are within your powers and try to act upon them;
- And last but not least – make decisions that are within your range.