Everyone, it seems, approaches decision making from a different point of view and uses a different technique. The approaches range from not deciding anything to taking forever.
Making decisions can be easy or hard depending on two things:
- Your point of view
- Your technique
I find it to be a great idea if you look at various decision-making methods. Some of them have very useful ideas or can be used as is.
For example, Kurt Lewin, a German social psychologist created “Force Field Analysis” which is a beautiful illustration of this concept.
First, I will quickly explain it and then show how to use it.
What’s Force Field Analysis?
In essence it is a variation of a “T-chart” technique where the pluses are listed on one side and the minuses on the other. The longest this prevails in general.
In this model, the two sides are “forces” influencing the decision.
There are just three steps in the technique.
Create a 3-column chart with the decision you are facing in the middle. The Pro Forces are on the left and the Con forces are on the right. Include everything you can think of including intangible and/or emotional factors. The more the merrier in general.
Draw an arrow from the factor towards the “decision” in the middle column.
Give each factor a score of between 1 and 5 (1 is low and 5 is high on an importance scale). It is best to simply use your intuition for this vs. trying to quantify with precision.
Compute a total the Pro and Con forces. Most of the time the high scoring column (Pro or Con) will be the correct decision. If that is so in the one you are doing, great. If something seems amiss, dig deeper for more factors on each set.
If you decide to enter more, be careful not to “influence” the decision with you own prejudices. Instead, try to even the choices by adding an entry to each side.
Putting the Technique into Action
You can use this technique all by yourself or with a group. The advantage in doing it alone is the decision will be quickly made in most cases. The disadvantage is, no matter how hard you may try to prevent it, your personal bias will influence the outcome.
A group will generally remove your bias, but can take much long. If you decide to involve a group, limit the time to 10 minutes or so. This time limit has the advantage of increasing the willingness of other to help you. Also, if you use a group, don’t try to find people that “know how”. Often a random group will be far more insightful and will suggest Pros and Cons far out of your box.
However you approach the decision (by yourself or in a group) you will get to a clear decision. Although you might not like the outcome, you can be confident that your decision was made with sound, transparent and explainable reasoning.
As you can see, this is clean, simple and straightforward approach to decision-making.
The best overall technique is to make the vast majority of your decisions quickly. Most of them are simple and do not require much pondering. However, whenever you find yourself with a tough or expensive decision, think about using this technique. It will be far better than making a haphazard or sloppy choice with something important.