Posts Tagged ‘Decision making’

death bed

Our days are filled with a constant stream of decisions. Most are mundane, but some are so important that they can haunt you for the rest of your life.

A recent study from Columbia University found that we’re bogged down by more than 70 decisions a day. The sheer number of decisions we have to make each day leads to a phenomenon called decision fatigue, whereby your brain actually tires like a muscle.

A new study from the University of Texas shows that even when our brains aren’t tired, they can make it very difficult for us to make good decisions. When making a decision, instead of referencing the knowledge we’ve accumulated, our brains focus on specific, detailed memories.

For example, if you’re buying a new car and trying to decide if you should go for the leather seats, even though you know you can’t afford it, your brain might focus on memories of the wonderful smell and feel of the leather seats in your brother’s sports car, when it should be focused on the misery you’re going to experience when making your monthly car payments. Since you don’t have memories of this yet, it’s a hard thing for your brain to contemplate.

Some decisions appear to be minor, such as what to eat, which route to drive to work, or in what order to tackle tasks. Nevertheless, they can be very significant in the overall span of our life.  Others are more obviously difficult and significant, such as choosing between two job offers, whether to move to a new city for someone you love, or whether to cut a toxic person out of your life. Regardless of the magnitude of the decision, our brains make it hard for us to keep the perspective we need to make good choices. And my word, how important those decisions can be.

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” – Stephen Covey

Bronnie Ware spent her career as a palliative care nurse, working exclusively with people who were 3 to 12 months from death. She made a habit of asking them about their greatest regrets, and she heard the same five regrets time and time again. By studying these regrets, you can make certain that you make good choices and don’t fall victim to them yourself.

#1 – They wish they hadn’t made decisions based on what other people think.

When you make your decisions based on other people’s opinions, two things tend to happen:

  1. You make a poor career choice: There are too many people out there who studied for a degree they regret or even spent their lives pursuing a career they regret. Whether you’re seeking parental approval or pursuing pay and prestige over passion, making a poor career choice is a decision that will live with you forever. So choose carefully – and if you choose wrong, change.
  2. You fail to uphold your morals: When you get too caught up in what your boss thinks of you, how much money you think your spouse needs to be happy, or how bad you will look if you fail, you are at high risk of acting while violating your own morals. Your intense desire to make yourself look good compromises your ability to stay true to yourself and, ultimately, to feel good.

The best way to avoid falling prey to the opinions of others is to realise that other people’s opinions are just that – opinions. Regardless of how great or terrible they think you are, that’s only their opinion. Your true self-worth comes from inside you.

#2 – They wish they hadn’t worked so hard.

Working hard is a great way to impact the world, to learn, to grow, to feel accomplished, and sometimes even to find happiness, but it becomes a problem when you do so at the expense of the people closest to you.

Ironically, we often work hard to make money for the people we care about without realising that they actually value our company more than money. The key is to find a balance between doing what you love and being with the people you love. Otherwise you’ll look back one day and wish you’d focused more on the latter. As the famous old saying has it, no one on their death bed ever said “I really wish I’d spent more time with the company accountant.”

#3 – They wish they had expressed their feelings.

Regrets-2-300x199We’re often taught as children that emotions are dangerous and that they must be bottled up and controlled.

This usually works to keep the world controlled at first, but boxing up your feelings simply causes them to grow until they erupt. The best thing you can do is to put your feelings directly on the table. Though it’s painful to initiate, it forces you to be honest and transparent.

For example, if you feel as though you don’t make enough money at work, schedule a meeting with your boss and propose why you think you’re worth more. As a result, she will either agree with you and give you a raise or disagree and tell you what you do need to do to become more valuable. On the other hand, if you do nothing and let your feelings fester, this will hinder your performance and prevent you from reaching your goal.

Learn how to express emotional matters un-emotionally. It will stand you in great stead.

#4 – They wish they had stayed in touch with their friends.

When you get caught up in your weekly routine, it’s easy to lose sight of how important people are to you, especially those you have to make time for.

Relationships with old friends are among the first things to fall off the table when we’re busy. This is unfortunate because spending quality time with friends is a major stress buster. Close friends bring you energy, fresh perspectives, and a sense of belonging, in a way that no one else can.

And remember, they may need your company, too.

#5 – They wish they had let themselves be happy.

When your life is about to end, all the difficulties you’ve faced suddenly become trivial compared to the good times. This is because you realise that, more often than not, suffering is a choice. Unfortunately, most people realise this far too late. Although we all inevitably experience pain, how we react to our pain is completely under our control, as is our ability to experience joy.

Learning to laugh, smile, and be happy (especially when stressed) is a challenge at times, but it’s one thing we can do in our lives that’s worth every ounce of effort.

In the Wellthisiswhatithink family this is known as “Play the Glad Game.” Or to put it another way, “Count your blessings”. Be grateful for the little things that surround us – not living in a war zone, for example, having enough to eat, the joy of having company – is excellent advice. There always are blessings to count, we just often fail to recognise them.

Don’t wait for life to be perfect, enjoy the way it is, right now.

Bringing It All Together

Some decisions have repercussions that can last a lifetime. Some of these decisions are made daily – how we conduct ourselves, our own health, our behaviour to others – and they require focus and perspective to keep them from haunting you, sooner or later.

Take time out to make important decisions, don’t make them on the run. And take time out to work on yourself. It is rarely wasted.

(Forbes magazine, with additions by us.)

Advertisements

blind

This is reproduced from the January 1, 2006 Harvard Business Review, by Paul Rogers & Marcia Blenko. It was sent to us by a client experiencing the need to clarify their decision-making on a particularly significant marketing matter, and he kindly thought it should be of interest to a wider audience.

We found it fascinating and relevant – and we hope you find it useful, too.

We have seen more chaos caused in organisations by the true decision-maker being obscured (or inadequately supported in their decision-making) than from any other single factor, except, perhaps, confusion over what the decision that is actually being taken really is. Understanding who has the real authority in any decision is vital, as is a formal process to make key decisions.

That’s why a big part of our business isn’t just generating ads – any ad agency worth it’s salt can come up with decent ads. We now spend at least as much time helping our clients decide what those ads should be about, and who they’re talking to, and why, and how the business needs to respond to decisions taken in the marketing area.

Marketing shouldn’t be a silo, but often is. And marketing should really drive every other department – drive the business strategy of the whole organisation – not merely respond to it, like a glorified production centre.

This very clear article solves the first problem – who is really taking the decision – and we recommend it to you.

And crucially, whoever is really taking the decision needs to be on top of it, at every stage.

To help you solve all the other problems about devising a successful business strategy – the end outcome of which is communications – call Magnum Opus on +613 9426 4500.

The Idea in Brief

Decisions are the coin of the realm in business. Every success, every mishap, every opportunity seized or missed stems from a decision someone made-or failed to make. Yet in many firms, decisions routinely stall inside the organization-hurting the entire company’s performance.

The culprit? Ambiguity over who’s accountable for which decisions.

In one auto manufacturer that was missing milestones for rolling out new models, marketers and product developers each thought they were responsible for deciding new models’ standard features and colors. Result? Conflict over who had final say, endless revisiting of decisions-and missed deadlines that led to lost sales.

So how to clarify decision accountability? Assign clear roles for the decisions that most affect your firm’s performance-such as which markets to enter, where to allocate capital, and how to drive product innovation.

Think “RAPID®”.

Who should Recommend a course of action on a key decision? Who must agree to a recommendation before it can move forward? Who will perform the actions needed to implement the decision? Whose Input is needed to determine the proposal’s feasibility? Who decides-brings the decision to closure and commits the organization to implement it?

When you clarify decision roles, you make the right choices – swiftly and effectively.

The RAPID Decision Model

For every strategic decision, assign the following roles and responsibilities:

PEOPLE WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR

Recommending

  • Making a proposal on a key decision, gathering input, and providing data and analysis to make a sensible choice in a timely fashion
  •  Consulting with input providers-hearing and incorporating their views, and winning their buy-in

Agreeing

  • Negotiating a modified proposal with the recommender if they have concerns about the original proposal
  • Escalating unresolved issues to the decider if the “A” and “R” can’t resolve differences
  • If necessary, exercising veto power over the recommendation

Performing

  • Executing a decision once it’s made
  • Seeing that the decision is implemented promptly and effectively

Inputing

  • Providing relevant facts to the recommender that shed light on the proposal’s feasibility and practical implications

Deciding

  • Serving as the single point of accountability
  • Bringing the decision to closure by resolving any impasse in the decision-making process
  • Committing the organization to implementing the decision

Decision-Role Pitfalls

In assigning decision roles:

  • Ensure that only one person “has the D.” If two or more people think they’re in charge of a particular decision, a tug-of-war results.
  • Watch for a proliferation of “A’s.” Too many people with veto power can paralyze recommenders. If many people must agree, you probably haven’t pushed decisions down far enough in your organization.
  • Avoid assigning too many “I’s.” When many people give input, at least some of them aren’t making meaningful contributions.

An example of the RAPID model in action

At British department-store chain John Lewis, company buyers wanted to increase sales and reduce complexity by offering fewer salt and pepper mill models. The company launched the streamlined product set without involving the sales staff. And sales fell.

Upon visiting the stores, buyers saw that salespeople (not understanding the strategy behind the recommendation) had halved shelf space to match the reduction in product range, rather than maintaining the same space but stocking more of the products.

To fix the problem, the company “gave buyers the D” on how much space product categories would have. Sales staff “had the A”: If space allocations didn’t make sense to them, they could force additional negotiations. They also “had the P,” implementing product layouts in stores.

Once decision roles were clarified, sales of salt and pepper mills exceeded original levels.

Making Critical Decisions the RAPID way

It is increasingly important, no matter what the size and complexity of your organisation is, to have a defined decision-making process.

Having been a leader of extensive global and regional underwriting and marketing business units that require many fast and accurate decisions, our teams had no choice but to establish formal decision-making roles and responsibilities.  In retrospect, while these written authorities provided some clarity, they were fairly one dimensional written “lines of authority”.  To support these basic decision-making rules required constant interaction and an enormous amount of communication.

Executing a strategic plan successfully depends upon the success or failure of the actual people executing the plan to make good decisions.  It stands to reason that if you can improve your team’s decision-making abilities then plan execution and results should also improve along the way.  The RAPID decision-making model goes a few steps further than what we call “written lines of authority” and is an easy but effective way to instil professional decision making within an organisation.

According to a Bain and Company Study, the average organization has the potential to more than double its ability to make and execute key decisions.

On a decision-effectiveness scale of 0 to 100, the best companies score an average of 71, while most companies score only a 28, according to Marcia W. Blenko, Michael C. Mankins, and Paul Rogers, authors of Decide & Deliver: 5 Steps to Breakthrough Performance in Your Organization.

Quick summary of RAPID

  • RAPID was developed by Paul Rogers and Marcia Blenko – two Bain & Company Consultants.  Their article: “Who has the D? How clear decision roles enhance organizational performance” which appeared in the January 2006 Harvard Business Review has since become one of HBRs “10 must reads”.
  • The Acronym RAPID describes the various roles and responsibilities for clear decision making within an organization.  With respect to critical decisions, it ultimately shows how power flows through an organization and/or business unit.
  • The objective with this approach is to create a more formalized, participatory approach towards decision-making process within an organization.
    It is also useful as a “post mortem” tool to diagnose failed decisions – to see what element or elements in the RAPID process was/were lacking or missing so the next time a critical decision has to be made so you are not repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
  • Implementing RAPID can be messy; it can reveal a convoluted and faulty decision-making process so there must be a full commitment to “check egos at the door” and accept the need for adopting RAPID as part of an organizational improvement initiative.  If your organization is in flux, it may not be the appropriate time to implement RAPID.
  • The web site http://www.decide-deliver.com designed by Rogers and Blenko can help you assess your decision making prowess and also, do the same type of assessment of your organization.
  • One of the pitfalls of this approach can be that it actually slows decision-making down. Therefore, at the outset of a project it is recommended that you decide which projects will follow RAPID and which ones will not.

Characteristics of High Performance Companies That Use RAPID

High-Performing organizations make good decisions quickly. Some of the characteristics they exhibit are:

  • For complex issues that require rapid decision making, achieving the right mix of control and creative freedom is critical for sustainable success.
  • A list of critical decisions in priority order must be part of the Strategic planning process. Determining which ones will follow the RAPID process is also required.
  • Decisions that build value are most important and thus, have the highest priority on such a list.
  • Action is the Goal.
  • Ambiguity is the enemy.
  • Speed and adaptability are key.
  • Decision roles trump the organizational chart.
  • A well-aligned organization reinforces roles and responsibilities.
  • Practicing beats preaching.  That being said, a communication plan needs to dovetail with the RAPID process.
  • Remember the “Rule of 7”: once you’ve got 7 people in a decision-making group, each additional member reduces decision effectiveness by 10%. Thus, a group of 17 or more rarely makes any decisions.
  • Managers spend 50% or more of their time in meetings, but Bain & Company research shows that two-thirds of meetings end before participants can make important decisions. Not surprisingly, 85% of executives are dissatisfied with the efficiency and effectiveness of their companies’ meetings.

If you think your meetings, strategy planning and decision-making as less than optimal, perhaps RAPID® is the answer?

RAPID® is a registered trademark of Bain & Company, Inc.