Decisions, Decisions!

Ever wondered if you made the right decision? Most of us recognise that the results and successes we achieve in life are often linked back to decisions we have made. Of course other factors come into play, but good decision-makers know that and work with them. Recently I have been discussing with a team the very basics of good decision making. Four things in particular have stood out as vital.

  1. Good decision-making is a process, not an instant in time. This is particularly true for team decisions but also applies to individuals. The desire to “make the decision” or be seen to make decisions can be a powerful factor pushing people to rush to a conclusion. As a result, insufficient information is gathered and a narrow range of options is considered. You tend to get OK but “more of the same” outcomes. As someone with a personality preference for getting decision closure myself, I understand fully how emotionally appealing rushing on and “just making a decision” can be - but it’s worth holding off just a little longer!
  2. Be clear about what outcome you want. What is the decision designed to help you achieve? When you are deciding as a team, common understanding of our purpose and desired outcome is essential. It cannot be assumed that we all know this because “it’s obvious to me”. Take time, even if it’s ten minutes, to check common understanding. Translate that into concrete outputs you all expect to see. It will save you much time and frustration later.
  3. Gather and consider far more options than those you think are most likely to be “the answer”. Take time to really think about what those other alternatives might look like and result in. Under what circumstances would they be a good idea? How could you capture some of these benefits in what you finally choose to do? Considering a wider range of options will make you more versatile and innovative.
  4. Create the conditions for open discussion. Avoid “advocacy” style debate with each protagonist “talking up” a favourite option. Not only does this “battling it out” approach shut down listening to relevant data, it creates emotional winners and losers when the final decision is made. That then leads to de-motivation or loss of face for some and patchy or poor implementation. Instead either encourage everyone, together, to consider the merits and risks of each option, or ask everyone to play devil’s advocate and rehearse the arguments each way. Try on alternative mindsets until debates are resolved. 

When you do these things your decision will be clearer, better informed and owned by all.

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