Better Decision Making  Picking The Best Option Or NotBetter Decision Making Picking The Best Option Or Not

Part 8 of a series: There's a term you may have heard that describes the opposite of good decision making ? analysis paralysis. This is when for whatever reason, you cannot or will not make a decision and then execute. Perhaps you believe you need more information; perhaps you need to convince someone who was not enrolled in your decision or the decision making process. For these reasons or others, you may find yourself stuck in first gear spinning and spinning. You're ready to move but something may be holding you back.

Let's assume for a minute you've used the logical process described in previous articles to make your choice, and are ready to execute. Before going forward there are a few steps that will help you gain alignment with the stakeholders or those impacted by your decision. This very same process will force you to look at potential downsides or negative outcomes of your decision. These outcomes may occur once the decision is made or days, weeks, or even months afterward. However, it is the master decision-maker who considers all aspects of the decision and puts a plan in place to both recognize these issues and deal with them if they arise. Once the plan is in place, there is nothing holding you back from making the call and moving forward with great confidence.

So let's take a look at adverse consequences of your decision. No decision or plan is perfect. If it's perfect at the start it will change over time or the environment will change. Regardless, you will have to acknowledge and be ready to deal with these outcomes.

Finding adverse consequences or potential negative outcomes is a process just like decision analysis is a process. One starts by asking some very basic questions. IF I CHOSE THIS OPTION: what may I have missed in the decision process that is required to make this choice successful? What might change over time, or as a result of this decision that would impact its long term success? What might happen completely outside this decision that could hurt its success? And last, if I chose this option what things tend to go wrong?

Some examples of adverse consequences that might not be highlighted in the decision process might include: having to move further away from a place of employment a few months after buying a gas-guzzling automobile. You've been wooed by a great new employer and taken a new job ? only to find out the person you'll be working for is a bit of a louse. Your new city has great everything ? except schools, which you discover 3 years after you arrive. You assumed you could account for an option's shortcomings then learn the cost of doing so is much more than you expect. And so on.

The adverse consequences take into account the criteria you've considered and some outside possibilities that would not have changed the decision as well. In either case, ending up with the best outcome requires action against this list. Choosing the action to take requires evaluation of the risks involved, the likelihood those risks will occur, and just how serious it will be if they do. We complete this exercise by considering two factors: potential impact and likelihood.

Each adverse consequence is listed and for each, a score is given for its negative impact to your choice. The score can be low, medium or high. Then, for each consequence, how likely is it to happen? Again, a score of low, medium, or high is assigned. Once your list is created and scored your focus areas become those with a high negative impact and a high likelihood of happening. For each of these, you'll determine a way to reduce the impact or likelihood; or better still eliminate the chance altogether. In rare circumstances, this analysis will cause you to dump your first choice and go with the second choice. In the end however, you'll be sure you've made the best choice considering all of the factors involved.

Up to this point you've used a very logical process to make perhaps a very difficult decision. Surely you wouldn't use this process to select a place to eat lunch! However, when considering life's most difficult decisions, the process works for you to insure you consider multiple points of view, the very best information and then focuses you on the best all-around option. Further, when you consider adverse consequences and create a plan to deal with them, you've set a foundation for a great decision.

by Stephen Straining
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Stephen Straining operates the site The tools found on the site are dedicated to helping families make better decision to save time, resources and money. Better decisions make for happier families and lives!

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