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Making Better Decisions

by Roy Chambers (follow)
Management (27)      Boss (13)      Leader (12)     
Did you know the the average amount of time people take to decide whether a candidate is suitable for a job is only 12 seconds. How can anyone possibly decide so quickly? I have been on interview panels and everyone else is trying to select the person who wore the suit, even though he was completely unsuitable for the position. When we went through the criteria one-by-one, they changed their mind and were wondering why they had selected the suit wearing candidate in the first place.

Attribution: Flickr - Anne-Lise Heinrichs


One core sales advice I give people is that most people make their decisions on only a few dimensions. When selling the trick is to uncover what these dimensions are and sell on them for all their worth. When buying you want to consider additional dimensions or be suckered into buying the wrong product.

So the trick to improve your decision making is straightforward. Make sure that you consider multiple criteria properly when you make a decision.

List your criteria

The most basic way to do this is to use a list of criteria. Then you can see which choice matches your criteria the best.

Attribution: Flickr - john. schultz


Basically write down a list of what you want. So for a job candidate write down everything from the qualifications, skills and personality. Then match the candidate against it.

Weight your criteria

Of course not all criteria are equal. You might buy a shirt if it isn't your favourite colour but not if it is the wrong size. By adding a score to your criteria you can produce a score for each choice.

Attribution: Flickr - Arsenie Coseac


There is no exact rules to weighting. I tend to simply divide things into essential and desirable. So something has to have all the essentials before being considered and then the one with the most desirables selected from those.

Add dimension with decision tables

I love decision tables. So often I am in meetings with people arguing back and forth while I quietly draw up a decision table in the corner. Usually by considering the interaction of key criteria in a table the decision becomes easy.

Attribution: Flickr - Sean MacEntee


Decisions tables at the simplest are just two criteria listed in a table. For example my friend wanted to buy a car. She had set a price limit that she wanted to pay, the size of the car and that she only wanted a new, not second hand car. When I drew up a decision table we could see that she either had to buy a smaller car, pay more money or buy a second hand car. She rejected this idea and then the next day I received a phone call from her, because she had just bought a second hand car which was the right size for her.

Decide across multiple criteria

Decision making is not that hard, yet we are rarely taught how to go about making decisions. Most of our childhood involves people making most of our decisions for us, and when we are adults most people only want us to make decisions that benefit them.

Being better at decisions is about being able to deal with multiple conflicting information to make the best possible choice.

Changing your mind

One of the worst mistakes in business is the inability to reverse a decision. I have even had managers refuse to talk about something because "the decision had already been made." If you have ever wondered why bad products end up being released, well it is that type of manager who is unable to reverse a bad decision that force this to happen.

Attribution: Flickr - Kevin Dooley


All decisions should be able to be reviewed. Of course some people change their mind back and forth every few days, which is not helpful. However if a decision appears to be a problem then it should reviewed and maybe changed or reversed. It is all part of good decision making.

Decision making matters

Too often you see people and organisations unable to make decisions. They become parallelized by the amount of information, level of uncertainty and their inability to try to cut through all this and move to action.

Extra: Don't make decisions

I know I have talked about the importance of decision making. But sometimes the best decision is to make no decision. A lot decisions can be delayed without any problems and so putting off decisions is not a bad thing if it doesn't hold up everything else.

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