Managing yourself creatively
The Art of Making Decisions
“Should we hire Jagannath?
“From whom should we buy our supplies?”
“Is this the time to invest in stocks?
DECISIONS, decisions, decision! Every day, we choose between alternative courses of action – sometimes wisely, some times “otherwisely”.
Some businessmen pride themselves on their ability to make hair- trigger decisions, on never delaying or holding up others. But arbitrary decisions made for the sake of “getting things settled” are often wrong and costly.
At the other extreme is indecisiveness, the inability to pick a course of action and see it through, not only he suffer from his own lack of solid accomplishment and consequent lost of self-confidence; the productivity and enthusiasm of the people under him nose-dive, too.
But when almost any business decision you can name involves hundreds, often thousands of rupees, how can you be certain that your decision is the best possible one?
The truth is, you can’t. There is no 100 percent guarantee on the wisdom of any decision in life. But you can do the next best thing. You can take certain steps to raise the odds in favour of your decision being right.
Before you attempt to reach any decision, however, make sure it’s necessary by asking yourself these questions:
“DO I HAVE TO DECIDE?”
That is, is there really a problem? The best way to find out is to get it down on paper, preferably in a single, tight sentence that spells out what you will lose if it is not solved. Be honest with yourself and see if you can do anything about it. In most cases you can, but if you can’t don’t waste time beating your head against a stone wall.
“WHEN MUST I DECIDE?”
Is time critical or can you wait without compounding the problem’s mischief? If you can wait, time alone may decide things for you. Or you may be better equipped to handle it in the future.
“WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO KNOW?”
Do you have all the pertinent facts? If not, what is missing? Have you considered all the consequences of the facts? Where can you find out more? Who may be able to assist or advise you? Will your decision affect others? If it will, it might be wise to consult them.
“CAN I IMPLEMENT MY DECISION?”
If you lack the resources, manpower, or authority to put a decision into action, there is little point in deciding.
“WHAT SHALL I DECIDE?”
This, of course, is your final step, the “main event” that is necessarily preceded by the above preliminaries. With your facts and their consequences clearly in mind, you are prepared to grapple with the actual decision-making process. Any one, or more, of the following techniques that have worked for there may work for you.
Your own Experience
In searching for solutions, we often ignore the obvious. Yet what is right in front of our noses may be just what we are looking for.
As a mature man, you have a vast reservoir of personal experience to draw from. You have faced dilemmas before and in one way or another, have solved them. Seldom is a decision-demanding situation completely new. It almost always contains one or more familiar elements.
Suppose, for example, that you want to raise some money in order to expand the physical facilities of your business. Your problem: how? You may never before have needed so much money for such a reason, but in all probability you have needed money before and, somehow, have raised it. How did you do it then? What other methods of raising cash did you contemplate using at that time? (One of the ideas discarded then may be just what you need now.) To whom did you go for advice? (He may be able to help you now.) By asking yourself such questions, you may literally stumble upon the key to your decision. At the very least, such self-interrogation can prime the wells of your thinking.
To get the maximum benefits from a review of your own experience, try these “trigger questions”:
|I.||Have I ever had to make a similar decision?|
|II.||How did I go about it?|
|III.||Was the decision reached an effective one? Why?|
|IV.||If it was a poor decision, what can I do to avoid repeating that mistake his time?|
|V.||Who, if anyone, helped me make the decision before?|
|VI.||Can I call upon him again?|
|VII.||In view of the results of my previous decision, can I reasonably anticipate reaching a wise decision now?|
|VIII.||How, precisely, does the present situation differ from the past one?|
|IX.||In view of these differences, what modifications should I make in my thinking?|
|X.||Has the passage of time altered in any way the results I may reasonably anticipate from following my own precedent (e.g., interest rates are higher, there is more competition, rents have risen, markets have changed, etc.)?|
Solicitation of Opinion
Frequently, two heads are better than one. And three may be still better. This is true providing that you use the right heads.
Before you take your survey of opinion, therefore, ask yourself some questions about the people from whom you in tend to get advice:
ARE THEY QUALIFIED?
If you’re undecided about introducing a new product, don’t ask your accountant for suggestions. On the other hand, if you are considering incorporating your business, don’t expect authoritative advice from your salesmen. Make sure the man you are asking for help knows something about the problem.
DO THEY HAVE ANY VESTED INTERESTS?
If your decision will affect another man’s authority, importance or self-interest, he is unlikely to be able to give you objective advice.
HOW GOOD HAS THEIR PAST ADVICE BEEN?
Past performance is a fairly accurate clue to future performance. Do the people you intend to survey have a good decision “batting average”? If they don’t what makes you think they can tell you what to do now?
When you have thus screened your sources take your poll and draw up a “score sheet” on which you get their answers to three main questions: (a) What are the specific benefits to be achieved by making this decision? (b) What are the risks or possible losses? (c) What will be the effect on the company and on the department for whose work the person contacted is responsible? Under each of these questions jot down the reaction of each person contacted
If you have polled the proper people, you should end up with a wealth of helpful suggestions at your fingertips.
Sometimes, before implementing a decision that carries with it broad ramifications, (e.g. an important policy change, a shift in assigned work, additional expenses) it is wise, and practical. to set up a test situation first.
If, for example, you are wondering whether or not to promote Suresh to a position carrying larger responsibilities, try assigning him one of the new responsibilities in his old job. Then keep tabs on his performance. If you are thinking of carrying a new line of products, before going all the way, test customer reaction with a few items. If you are contemplating a new advertising theme, measure its effectiveness with some test advertisements.
Whenever possible, try out your decision on a small scale.
In any discussion of decision making. the part that the subconscious mind plays should not be overlooked. Study the problem before you. Saturate yourself with the facts. Review the alternative courses of action open to you. Then talk it over with yourself; that is, give your subconscious all the pertinent information and a chance to simmer with all its other recorded experiences. Eventually, it will tell you which is the best possible decision.
It may take an hour, a day, or a week. But sooner or later, while you’re shaving, watching a ball game, or listening music, it will come through.
Check Your Objectivity
While each of the above techniques can help you make more objective decisions, none of them is foolproof.
An ever-present danger in the decision-making process is the temptation to let our thinking be guided by our desires, inclinations and emotions rather than by the cold facts. We believe that we assemble reasons, evaluate them and arrive at a conclusion, but in reality the conclusion too often precedes the premises. When a problem confronts us, we jump to a conclusion then go back and seek reasons to support that conclusion.
Such rationalization is thought of as the process of justifying a decision that has already been consciously arrived at. But it goes deeper than that. The decision may not have been consciously arrived at, but your inclinations will favor a particular line of reasoning a particular set of facts which leads to the desired conclusion or decision. Such a decision may not be wrong, but it should be suspect.
There is no easy formula for eliminating your emotions from your reasoning. It is only in recognizing this very human tendency to wishful thinking, by scrutinizing every conclusion that seems too pleasing, by making a conscious effort to reason dispassionately that you can free your mind for thinking that is thoroughly logical.
So even if you sincerely believe that you have reached your decision with clinical detachment, check it for subjectivity with such questions as:
|I.||“Is my decision suspiciously close to what I personally would like to do?”|
|II.||“Was I angry, elated, depressed or otherwise out of emotional equilibrium when I made my decision?”|
|III.||“Did I tend to consider only those facts that reinforced my personal inclinations and biases?”|
|IV.||“Have I consciously or otherwise avoided taking into consideration any information that has a bearing on this decision?”|
|V.||“Does my decision violate plain common sense?”|
If you can honestly answer each question with an unequivocal no, you are ready for the final step.
Implement Your Decision
Once your decision has been made and tested for detachment, act on it. Act on it as though it were the only possible course of action open to you. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that if the weight of evidence was on one side in any choice of action fifty-one percent against forty-nine percent, a man must take that course as though it were 100 percent. No other rule is possible.
Make your decision. Act on it. Don’t look behind. Don’t harbor regrets. Don’t nourish former hesitations. What’s done is done.
If you use the techniques described here, the chances are good that it will be well done.