How To Make The Best Decisions

From childhood, we are taught that in order to achieve big goals, we need to work together towards them.

Most of the time, however, what we were taught does not come into play. We may want different things, and have different goals. Or we might agree on the goal, but not on the way to get there.

Decision making is hard, and so we try different ways of making them.

From the beginning of time, until today (and unfortunately until the last human vanishes of the face of the earth), there are people who take over and decide for the silent ones. When someone makes decisions for us, it may be easier (especially if we don’t suffer consequences). If we don’t agree with the decision, well, tough.

The old Greek tried something fresh, they called it democracy. There’s an equal vote for everyone, and the majority wins. If you were in favor of the decision, fine. If against, well, tough again. But, as we say these agile days, the mechanism doesn’t scale. We can’t vote on everything all the time. There are interesting attempts to have a holacracy in some organizations (Zappos, for example), that looks for the old ways. We still need time to  learn and test it. The Romans developed the system of elected representatives. In this system, we appoint people to decide for us.

In the business (the agile and the not so agile) world, we have more flavors. We start off with the omnipotent boss. He can decide about everything (or at least on everything important). He’s either one of the founding fathers, or was elected by the board of directors to make decisions. Promotion in most organizations are based on a mix of skills, relationship and luck. You need to be good at what you do (which may not be good enough after the promotion), you need the trust of the people who promote you, so you need to have some relationship. And luck always helps, especially when a vacancy appears.

People in managerial roles get to make decisions. Good managers try to do the opposite – they try to delegate most decisionm making downwards. The closer we get to the work, and the people who actually do it, we get more informed decisions. The higher we go (and away from the work), decisions may still be executed, but the assumptions they were based on may not be correct. Execution may not align with the vision.

Let’s assume our organization is moderately intelligent (and above), and therefore tries to make the best decisions. It therefore gets the best minds onboard to make them. They collaborate. investigate, discuss, and need to finally decide.

Here you’ll see that the options of decision making are fractal in nature. In some groups, a self-appointed person will try to get his agenda moving forward, he may get pushback, or defeat the weary protestors. Some groups will try to reach a unanimous consensus, which is tiring by itself. In other groups people will silently appoint others who they support. And so it goes.

Decision making is a skill

We can get better at it, by making more of them. Learning from mistakes and successes. We can also learn from observing how decisions are made in our different circles, and try to learn how to push a decision through or derail one.

We make decisions all the time. Decisions are an important part of business. So, we want to improve at them, we better start experimenting with them.

Safety is key. We won’t always make the right decision. Therefore we need to allow to fail safely.

Continuous improvement shouldn’t skip this important skill.

You want to make the best decisions?

Practice in a safe environment.

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