How to Make Better Decisions Starting Today!
Did you know that the average person makes a minimum of five decisions per minute when engaged in thought?
Add up the number of minutes in the typical eight hour work day, and you are at 480 minutes. This potentially could translate into 2,400 decisions we make each day at work!
We all have to make decisions, big or small – throughout our lives. Decision making underpins the fabric of everything we do. When we play tennis, we have to make decisions about how to position the racket and address the ball. When we are at the office, we have to make decisions on how to give an employee feedback or how to finalize a sale. Decisions do vary in importance, but decisions have to be made whether we like making them or not. This is also true whether we are competent in doing so or not.
The ultimate goal: Make the best possible decisions we can with the knowledge and experience we have available to us. After all, once you make an important decision, you want to look back and know that you made the right decision, correct? Ineffective or poor decision-making skills can result in disastrous consequences that can cost your organization time, money, and resources, and may even ruin a company’s reputation.
Let’s talk about an example of good versus bad decision making.
Imagine a sales manager who has decided to set the team’s focus on sales numbers at the end of the quarter. Collectively, the sales team might reach the goals established, but what if they don’t? If the manager decides to review and measure progress only by what happened at the end of the quarter and the numbers don’t come in, what does the sales team do now?
What momentum would they have?
At what point would they decide to start a recovery plan or change course?
How would they make sure that the same problem didn’t happen next quarter?
In order to make good decisions, we need to understand the steps involved in the decision-making process, ones that happen consciously or unconsciously. We also should have a base of knowledge concerning the processes and biases that come into play that could set bad decision making in motion. We should be able to reflect each time we come to a final decision so that we learn from our successful decisions as well as our failed decisions.
If you look at the initial decision the manager made in determining what to measure, wouldn’t it have made more sense to also measure the number of prospects the sales team puts in the pipeline? As we learned in Performance Management, “That which you measure, people focus on.”
Remember, metrics in decision making are important because “What gets measured, get done!” Great sales managers know that all sales staff should have an active prospect list, a list that is constantly updated. An active prospecting list is a basis for sales activity. It is the leading indicator of sales results. If the sales team focused on both sales numbers AND on prospects, their success would be better, guaranteed.
Good decisions are based on facts and research and are of tremendous value to any organization.
Using an effective decision-making process based on facts and research will teach you and your team to put aside hunches and personal feelings until you can validate them. You can make decisions after a full analysis of the problem, and by using all the data available. Then, you can determine if your first impressions were valid. Plus, it will bring about a climate of accountability and shows a clear rationale for arriving at decisions using a combination of logic and gut feel. The manager and team in the example obviously didn’t use an effective decision-making process to come up with the best plan to benefit the team or the company.
When used correctly and if all individuals and teams use the same decision-making process to make the best decisions possible, everyone will be on the same page with regard to how decisions should be best made. This can be extremely beneficial. When your team gets to the point where they have to make a final decision, you want the team to make the decision based on logic and not be anchored solely on their instincts. Doing so leaves the decision-making process open to error since the process may be infused with ingrained prejudice or bias.
In the Enterprise Development Suite course, we are going to examine decision making in depth. The Rational Decision-Making process. How is Intuitive Decision Making formed? Do common biases affect our decisions?
The Rational Decision-Making Process is a 6-step process.
It requires you to identify your problem, develop options, and analyze them from a cost/benefit perspective. After you have selected and implemented the decision, you circle back to the original decision and evaluate it. During this phase, you should also revisit your initial gut reaction – the first intuitive thought of what decision you would have made prior to gathering your decision making information.
This final step of evaluating is often overlooked, but it is an important step. By using an evaluation process, you will be able to learn from your mistakes and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. You will also see how adept you are at making intuitive decisions in the similar situations. In this way, you are flexing and stretching your overall decision-making muscles, ultimately making them more resilient and stronger.
After you learn about Rational Decision Making, you are going to learn how to get to the point of making good decisions intuitively.
Using the Rational Decision-Making process on a consistent basis, you might get to the level where your intuition has been superbly groomed. By using this course information, you and the people in your organization can adopt a standardized way of coming to conclusions and evaluating decisions based on their value to the organization. In addition, a Rational Decision-Making Process ensures that strategic decisions are made by the appropriate level.
The six steps in our Rational Decision-Making Process are:
Rational vs. Intuitive Decision Making
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of any decision-making fundamentals, we should step back and set the context. Whenever we make a decision, we generally use either the Rational Decision-Making Process, independently or in conjunction with Intuitive Decision-Making Processes.
Rational Decision Making: Based on facts and research.
Intuitive Decision Making: Based on gut feeling.
Rarely are these two different ways of making decisions completely autonomous. However, for the purpose of teaching you the fundamental differences between the two, in this coursework, we are going to separate them. Then, after you understand the strengths and weaknesses of both, we will show you how to best use them in tandem.
Before we do this, let’s talk about how our mind reacts when initially faced with a decision. The Model for Actions and Behaviors shows that decision making is the step just prior to the culmination of how actions and behaviors are formed:
Now, let’s examine a simple 4-step model called the Unconscious Competence Model:
This model will help you understand how you can get from Rational Decision Making to a point of using excellent Intuitive Decision Making.
For example, People with an annoying habit of saying Umm when speaking often don’t realize what they are doing.
- This person doesn’t even know what they don’t know. If they knew that others found their unconscious habit irritating, they might be horrified. This realization might be just the catalyst to cause them to think about changing. They might then work at communicating in a way that people would find more pleasing. Unconscious Incompetence is something you should understand thoroughly because we do so many things unconsciously. You know how annoying some little habits can become, but the person who has the annoying habit most likely is not even aware of that habit.
- This individual either hears about this annoying habit or they actually see themselves saying “Umm” on a video or monitor. Besides being embarrassed, the individual must be willing to move forward. If they choose to change, they will then move to the next phase: Conscious Incompetence. They are now consciously and painfully aware of their annoying habit. This pain is more intense when they now consciously hear themselves say “Umm.” It becomes irritating and disturbing to them also, especially when they realize that they can’t easily stop it. They are incompetent in their efforts to stop their habit. Upon examination, their current habit pattern is actually an unconscious decision that their mind makes every time they utter “Umm.”
- Hopefully, after their painful discovery, they again move toward the third phase called Conscious Competence. In this phase, they understand or are conscious of what they have to do to become competent. They must however work at changing themselves with concentrated focus. This is where consciousness comes into the picture. They have to listen to themselves to become conscious of what other people hear. They make the decision to train their mind to not say “Umm”. Through this mental training, they begin to change. The ultimate goal is to get to the fourth and final part of this conscious awareness.
- In the next phase, they will hopefully eliminate the “Umm” from their vocabulary entirely. When they are consistently successful are eliminating all their “Umms,” they have reached the fourth phase: Unconscious Competence. This is the final goal to get to the point where they are making decisions unconsciously and instinctively. Hopefully, that individual will make those automatic decisions correctly or with competence because they have planned to do so.
Here is the rub: Much of what we do unconsciously, we have not planned.
We haven’t really thought enough about how we have formed our habit patterns. If we are lucky, our unconscious habits are good habits, but what if they aren’t? What if all the decisions that underpin our habits hurt us? Wouldn’t it make sense to examine our habits and unwind those that we don’t like? Shouldn’t we make the decision to systematically go through the Unconscious Competence Model for the habits that are important to our success?
These four steps in the Unconscious Competence Model can occur any time we do something over and over again. Until we become aware, it will be difficult to make good decisions – or form great habits – and have this become a natural part of our psyche.
Our goal is to train our minds in the Unconscious Competence Model to achieve that final outcome: Making good intuitive decisions over and over again, by rote or habit. Unconscious Competence is where the right types of decisions, the ones we choose to make, eventually become second nature.
Circling back to the Rational and Intuitive Decision Making Processes:
Of these two processes, the most important one to actively use and become proficient at using is the Rational Decision Making Process. This process is when you:
- Make decisions by judicious or logical means.
- You come to your conclusions and move ahead with your decision after you have gone through a systematic, sensible, step by step approach.
- The goal is to use logic and objectivity that will withstand the rigors of an after action review process. One in which people will say that they would have made the exact same decision as you did.
As you can well imagine if you are adept at Rational Decision Making and make it a habit, your proficiency in Intuitive Decision Making will also accelerate. You build your Intuitive Decision Making mental muscles based on logic. This is critical because Intuitive Decision Making is ultimately based on how your decision-making habits have been formed – these are instinctual.
If we examine Rational Decision Making, it requires that you use a cognitive or rigorous thought process where each step follows in a logical order from the one before. Through our cognition, we acquire knowledge, based on thinking through and weighing all of the alternatives to come up with the best potential result. In other words, you follow an orderly process. By using judicious or logical steps. The Rational Decision-Making Process ensures that your decisions come from organized facts.
As we said, once you become proficient in using the Rational Decision Making Process, many of your decisions will eventually become instinctual, or second nature. You will be able to make good decisions that won’t require deep thought; they will just become natural, and your decisions will be quick and easy, and stress free.
That is the goal of the Enterprise Development Suite course: Become intuitive in wise decision making.
You will feel confident in your abilities to make decisions based on natural or learned instincts that are well grounded in logic.
A good example of an Intuitive Decision is a firefighter’s quick reactions: When arriving at a fire, they are able to save lives because they make decisions based on intuition. How are heroic firefighters able to make those quick, split-second decisions that mean the difference between life and death? They act instinctively, and because of their quick automatic responses, lives are saved.
Firefighters weren’t born like this – knowing how to fight fires. They spend a lot of time building their instincts with things like:
- Mental rehearsal
Ideally, people spend time in all of these methods to hone their decision making processes, no matter what their job responsibilities are. Training, simulations, experience, and pre-programming and mental rehearsal are all important competencies. We touch on many of these in decision making and in other courses of the Enterprise Development Suite eLearning.