Social Decision Making Quality is a process needed in a complex world

This morning you might’ve woken up to learn that the rules of the game have changed – once again. The world is complex, and going autopilot on decision making means trusting that your stakeholders, customers and competitors are playing by the rules of yesterday. So, you have your experience and guts, you’re smart and observing your field. But how can you be sure your decision making is high-quality? You’ll need a system for it. A system that looks at the process -How are decisions made, when, by whom and with what information. And a system that manages the execution, the outcome and the evaluation.

Quality factors in decision making consist of 7 elements

  1. Framing the question – What is it that we are deciding? Get the purpose and scope defined. This also includes involving the right people.
  2. Bringing up alternatives – What are our alternatives? Outside your comfort zone, there are new solutions, and possibly the best alternative for you.
  3. Sharing information and intuition – What do we know and feel? There is the uncertainty aspect of information but, nevertheless, you’re the one(s) choosing the best solution.
  4. Defining consequences – What consequences do we care about? It’s likely you’ll be doing tradeoffs, make sure they’re conscious.
  5. Reasoning and dialogue with others – Are we thinking straight about this and documenting it properly? Does your sound reasoning convince yourself and others?
  6. Committing and agreeing to take action – Will we really take action? Be ready to act and use the appropriate resources.
  7. Right Timing – Finally, you need to ponder if the timing is right, for making the decision and for executing it. Remember that understanding changes with time.

Each and every one of these elements deserves time and consideration. The approach may seem stiff but the whole point is to notice patterns, learn the best practices that aren’t always obvious. Making obvious decisions is quite simple. It’s the complex and chaotic situations where our commitment and focus gets tested. It also allows innovative and agile work when we’re not taking the same old route over and over again.

Better decision making quality leads to better results. Better decisions, better business. Surely, there’s no 100 % guarantee on the outcome. It could turn out good or bad, and it will result in unintended side effects, some positive and some negative. So how to measure decisions? Are you currently even able to measure you decision making, let alone evaluate the quality of it? Evaluating should be done along the process and in retrospect, after six months, for instance. You should consider at least four elements: quality, velocity, outcome, and effort used. Everyone involved will evaluate, and you’ll see how differently you may see the elements of the decision.

Keeping track of your decisions, and actually learning from them isn’t something that every organization is doing. Wouldn’t it be great to find out why forecasts went wrong, what factors were misjudged? Or even better, make sure that none those flaws happen again? Focusing on better decision making lifecycle minimizes the danger of undesired outcomes.

To change the culture, you need to change the decision making system. And to navigate complexity you need to focus on decision capability and quality.

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