How often have you heard or thought about your decision making process? The outcome of our decisions pretty much choose our entire life outcome. Have you noticed that certain types of people are really good at making decisions? These are the kinds of people we try to be and we want as spouses, friends, colleagues, and also the kind of people we try our very best to teach our children to be. We are very human, however, and always making the best decision sometimes eludes us, but we can build a toolbox of suggestions for consideration when making a new decision. Here are some tools I’ve created or found along the way to help with the decision-making process. I hope you decide to use them:
Tool #1: Research
When buying a product or service we have buyer’s guides (that cost money), Consumer Reports, Angie’s List or even free resources like CNET and a host of other places to look into online to determine the reliability of the item and the worthiness of the cost. Some people are very good at research, but still very apprehensive to buy. Even movies get critic ratings that some of use review to see if it’s a movie or show we’d like to spend our time watching or not. Decision making research can be helpful, but is not always available, depending on the context of the situation. When considering a decision, there are thousands of places to research online covering a myriad of topics.
Here are some helpful FREE online research resources:
Google Scholar (Did you know this existed?)
Tool #2: Second and Third Opinions
Have you every ran something by your parents? …or spouse? …or best friend? This idea is very standard and basically is just running the parameters of the decision by someone you trust, and getting their input before your final move. Caution on this one: make sure they are good listeners before trying this, and you respect their previous decisions on similar matters.
Tool #3: Gut Check
Do I feel right about the decision? Are there moral or ethical ties to this decision that are keeping me from making it or not? If so, maybe you’ve already made the best decision for you. Doing nothing is a decision.
Tool #4: Similarity Check
Does this current situation resemble a lesson you learned from someone else or yourself from the past? Really think about the parameters and determine if you think it’s similar enough and this becomes your mental model for this new choice. Another name for this is “Experience.” Here is the famous overarching quote on the matter by George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Tool #5: The (always-biased) Pro vs. Con List
Everyone has used this at one point or another – developing a list of pros and cons that will happen if we decide on way versus another. This list will always be biased, even if you have someone else make it for you, because then their biases will be included. I heard on a podcast that if you look at good decisions you’ve made in the past and ferret out a process for how you came to that decision (Simon Sinek calls them filters), you may be able to apply that process to the current situation. I like that idea better than a biased pro vs. con list, even though it takes work to develop, but you might learn something worthwhile about yourself in the process.
A link to follow up more on this tool:
Tool #6: READE (pronounced as “ready“)
In some parts of the commercial nuclear power world training has been created to help make better decisions under production pressure, operational risk, and other error precursors. Without diving too deep into the training, here is what the overall premise of READE looks like:
Recognize the degraded condition or uncertain situation that threatens safety
Express the situation in terms of consequence (if left alone) related to:
- Personal safety and well-being
- Plant safety and reliability
- Environmental safety
Appraise the situation to identify conditions that could threaten safety
Decide what to do to resolve the situation safely
Evaluate the effectiveness of the actions in achieving the desired results
When should READE be used?
A conservative approach is necessary when encountering the following conditions, or others similar, during activities or processes that could affect safety:
- Unexpected results
- Uncertain, degraded, or unstable conditions
- No slack—low margin for error
- No opportunities to redo or recover—irreversible actions
- Complexity—hard to understand
- Limited guidance—unclear guidance in procedures
- Need for high levels of precision
- Multiple concurrent activities that require a significant degree of coordination
- First time or infrequently performed evolution
Other situations that call for a conservative decision making approach occur in the following situations:
- A serious performance gap to excellence exists.
- A significant change to an important plant process or program is being considered that could impact personnel performance.
- Fast-track job or work assignments are made (to be immediately implemented).
The READE Tool reminds us to include risk and consider consequence when making impactful decisions.
Some extra links you may consider:
[Author note: There are a ton of resources on decision-making… these are just some I think you’ll enjoy across multi-media formats.]
This Freakonomics link will actually HELP you make a decision, no matter how complicated