Project Management 4
Risk Management 4
Decision Making 4
The most common issue with decision making is an incomplete or incorrect definition of the problem. Most people feel that they immediately know what the decision is about. Take the time and discipline to be rigorous and clear. This is even more important when a team is involved, as each member of the team will naturally have a different perspective, and likely a different problem definition.
The following steps provide a system to ensure rigor in your decision making process. It does not ensure good decisions – that additionally requires data and judgement – but it will ensure that you don’t rush to an answer prematurely.
- What is the real decision, written down in a way that it cannot be misunderstood? Ensure that everyone involved in the decision is involved in its definition. Writing it down may reveal misunderstandings, differences of opinion, differences in perception, bias, and missing information. Aligning with your team around problem definition will create a better definition, and will also engender commitment to the process, the decision, and the team itself.
- What information are you currently missing? If it could influence the decision, and the resources required to attain the information are available and of a scale appropriate to the value of the decision, go get it. If not, note it as a risk and move on.
- What is the relative importance of each decision-driving factor? This information will be used to weigh the often competing factors.
Through this three-step process, you should be able to produce a well-defined problem statement. If not, consider adding additional perspectives to the process. At this point, one could assign weights to each factor and add them up. For most decisions, we recommend two more activities, however (see below for Development of options, and Unintended consequences).
Every time you have a high-impact decision. Scale the resources spent on problem definition to those available to you, and the importance of a positive outcome.
While good decisions don’t guarantee good outcomes, they significantly increase the probability of good outcomes. Knowing what a good outcome looks like (through problem definition) is the first step.
How to formulate a useful problem definition.