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How To Make Decisions Better And Faster

Written by: Frank Spevak, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

There is a way to make better and faster decisions. Seems incredible, right? Not really. Anyone can do it. There is some good news and there is some bad news.

Hand turns dice and changes the word "faster" to "better".

First, some of the bad news. The pandemic isn’t over. When it’s over, something else will take its place. There is a minor crisis every 3 to 5 years. There’s a major crisis every 8 to 12 years. We tend to remember the time after the crisis and not what lead up to the crisis or what it was like during the crisis. A crisis in one market may not affect you in your market right now but the next one might.


Now for some of the good news. Most everyone survived the pandemic. There were lots and lots of learning opportunities if you took the time to understand them. We had the ability to examine and readjust our businesses. We were able to get rid of bad business and or bad employees. Usually, there is a long period of growth following a crisis.


There is a hard reality that exists, and the pandemic proved out this principle.


Those companies that can adapt, make good decisions with greater confidence, speed, and follow up, will survive. Those that don’t ‒ DIE.


The ability to adapt, adjust, or pivot lies in the ability to improve how you make decisions. I have found a way to make better and faster decisions. Seems incredible, right? Not really. The key to this newfound ability is that you have to get comfortable with VUCA ‒ Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. Each of these elements exist all around us even when we can’t or won’t see them. Each of these elements can change up or down in connection with the others or change independently of the others. Each of these elements can and will play with your mental calculations and your emotions.


So how do you get comfortable with VUCA? By gathering information not just data. Data are various facts and numbers. Information is developed when you understand the context of the data and how it is properly applied to your situation. You need to openly share that information with your team and do it by letting them know your level of comfort. It is not just you that need to get comfortable. You need to gauge the team’s level of comfort. You can have different levels of comfort, but you need to be honest with them and they need to be honest in return.


Over the years, I have worked with engineers and physicists, and they like to have lots of data, not necessarily information. They get comfortable in the volume of data. But it is the actual information you draw from the data that is key. You don’t have to have 100% of any and all conceivable amount of data to create meaningful information that can lead to better and faster decision-making.


There is another way to get comfortable with VUCA. By creating frameworks and processes for decision-making and action.


By creating frameworks and processes for all decisions, you are better prepared for all types of decisions. Frameworks and processes are used to learn how to frame the problem. You learn how to understand the context of the problem. You learn which problem you’re actually trying to solve and only work on that particular problem. You learn deadlines and decision rights and constraints.


Step 1 – Framing the issue


The first step in this whole framework and process decision-making is finding out exactly what needs to be decided. Write out the issue. What are the symptoms? Where do these symptoms point? Take the symptoms out of the equation. Then reframe what you wrote. Rewriting or editing helps you discover more about the real problem at hand. And is this a singular problem or part of a system? As my friend Bill Spohn, CEO of TruTech Tools pointed out recently – “simplicity”. Take on only the one problem and then complete the process.


You also want to determine if you are trying to find a problem to fit a solution you already have? Think about the drill that is being sold. Is it a problem with the drill or is it with the hole being drilled or the bookshelf that you are trying to attach to the wall? Which part of that string are you trying to solve?


Step 2 – Constraints


The next step is to determine what constraints exist for the problem. Constraints are actually a good thing. It gives you boundaries within which to work. If it were unlimited funds and an indefinite timeline, all things are possible, but you may spend so much money you go bankrupt and you never get the product out. What good is that? So, you need to be somewhat precise in understanding the constraints you have to deal with. Is it money? Is it time? Is it the location where you are or where the customer is? is it people? And is it the customer?


Step 3 – Decision Rights


From there, you need to understand decision rights. Who is the ultimate decision maker? Or is the committee the decision maker? Who really needs to be involved in the decision-making? Is the decision maker part of the committee? Is consensus good enough or does it need to be 100%? If the decision maker is not in at the beginning, then they weaken their decision-making stance. Is he or she comfortable with that? You need to be honest about who can decide what and when.


Step 4 – Information


A big stumbling block, as I alluded to near the beginning is data and information. Understand that they are very different things. Data without context is meaningless. Information cannot be developed without data. What data do you have? What data do you need? What data do you really, REALLY need? How much data is good enough to make a decision? Jeff Bezos says that 70% is good enough. Some financial decisions may need more data and information, but you will never get or need 100%.


The whole point of understanding how much data is good enough comes down to the losses you experience when you chase data. You waste time. You waste money. And most importantly, you waste opportunity.


Step 5 – Testing your decisions


As you start developing solutions you need to screen them through different perspectives. Each time you need to look at it from the customer’s perspective, your company’s perspective, and any other stakeholders who might be involved.


Start testing your decisions and your solutions. You do this in a few different ways. Talk to people with at least three diverse backgrounds. Talk to someone you trust and can speak candidly. Talk to someone who always disagrees with you. Talk to someone who has no experience with the issue. And talk to someone from a different part of your organization.


Criticism isn’t easy to hear but you need to be open to it. To do that there are a few things to consider. You need to make it easy for people to question your solution. What are three ways the solution might fail? Who will disagree with you and why? What is the biggest obstacle to making it work? What are your blind spots? And ask yourself, “what am I missing?”


As you consider your different solutions there are first-order consequences as well as second and third-order consequences. When the decision is made, what possible consequences can take place? What possible consequences can take place after the first-order consequences? And then what are the possible effects on the third order of the decision. It gets murkier the further down you go, but it can help you answering objections and problems that might come up.


And with any decision you make, you need to understand what customers might think and do? What might your competitors think and do? What might your employees think and do? What might your suppliers think and do?


Decision Making Traps


Within all of this decision-making and developing frameworks and processes you need to avoid the various traps that can exist to sink any possible solution no matter how good. How do you avoid these traps?

  • The ultimate decision maker needs to be in at the beginning.

  • Beware of leaders and experts because sometimes they can become too focused on their expertise or a desired outcome to properly consider alternatives.

  • Don’t let people go along to get along.

  • Don’t let people decide prematurely. Make them wait until everything has been discussed.

  • And most importantly - beware of grandstanders. These are people that will come in at the last minute with what seems like an incredible solution and have not been involved in the discussions that have taken place so far.

It seems like there are a lot of steps to do. The first time you do it, it will seem like far more than you are usually used to dealing with making a decision. And that is good, because you want to make better decisions, right? As you get used to framing issues, collecting data, creating information, constraints, decision rights, developing solutions, and testing your solutions, you will get better and faster.


This whole idea of decision-making and frameworks and processes came up to a small business owner with just a few employees. He asked how could he employ these frameworks and processes on every decision when it was just a couple of people there? My response was that no matter the size of a company, no matter the size of the decision, going through the exercises of these steps each time will make each and every decision better and over time you will do it with more speed and confidence.


Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


 

Frank Spevak, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Frank Spevak helps entrepreneurs improve productivity, increase profit, and achieve peace of mind for themselves and their business by evaluating their business operations, and maximizing brand and marketing opportunities.


It all started when Frank realized that street smarts and luck can carry you only so far. Formal education doesn't necessarily mean that you learn the lessons of running a successful business.


Frank's success comes from his passion for lifelong learning. That lifelong learning has helped him in the company after company, to build business strategies and innovation programs to take companies to the next level. Coming up through the ranks of sales and marketing developed a deeper understanding and the importance of creating a strong brand and comprehensive marketing programs to ensure success for the business and the owner.


Before running his own business, Frank was a senior executive and worked as Chief Marketing and Sales Officer of a successful multi-million-dollar technology manufacturing and distributing company in Minnesota. Nowadays you’ll find Frank writing, speaking, and riding around the country on his Harley–all while coaching, serving clients, and providing practical and buzzword-free learning.

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