Making Better Decisions: Timing, Framing And Self Awareness

by Kim Faulkner 1 November 2016

Believe it or not, being able to make good decisions is not just about being able to get good information, but also about framing the choices you need to make, and being disciplined about the timing . 

 

There is actually a RIGHT time to make decisions within a process, and it has to do with making a decision at an inflexion point in the process, and sticking to it – unless new information emerges that changes the paradigm.

In any process, there are at most 3 inflexion points, and the trick is to know when those points are, and being clear about your goals at each stage.

THE FIRST INFLEXION POINT IN THE PROCESS IS HOW YOU DEFINE THE PROBLEM.


What are you trying to achieve? And what do you need to make that change happen? The first question is really the project goal. The second question addresses the anticipated barriers or variables in getting to a decision - framing your choices.

Most clients in my experience, do not spend enough time on the second aspect. Possibly because they are afraid to confront the hurdles (real or anticipated); or possibly because it just takes too much effort to think about the variables. However, the second question shapes the process and ease with which decisions can be made in a timely manner.

If the problem and hurdles are properly identified at the first inflexion point, chances are you’ll have a clearer understanding of what your REAL choices are going to be, and it will make the data gathering or creative exploration process, much sharper.

THE SECOND INFLEXION POINT COMES WHEN YOU ARE PRESENTED WITH THE POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS OR REACTIONS TO THE PROBLEM YOU'VE DEFINED.


In this instance, the decision you need to make is whether all these options answer your problem in some way – maybe not perfectly, but do they address the key issues identified earlier? This is important because oftentimes when we are given options, we are looking for the final solution. You want to LOVE the solution – but this is not critical at this stage.

You don’t need to LOVE the solution, but you do need to TRUST the team presenting the options have been through a process which took the variables and hurdles you framed earlier, into consideration.

Insisting on having ever more options to choose from will not set you up to succeed in the end, as you are never going to be committed to a direction, and ultimately, it becomes a process and project of diminishing returns – on both sides.

Have you ever been in a situation after going around and around, you’ve ended up with the options first presented to you?

After you’ve selected a strategic course of action, you can begin the process of fine-tuning and funnelling of choices. At this juncture, you should focus on making the RIGHT decision and not be distracted by whether management or the board will like it.

THIS BRINGS ME TO MY THIRD INFLEXION POINT, WHICH IS THE POINT AT WHICH YOU NEED MANAGEMENT OR BOARD APPROVAL.


As with the case of “know thyself”, you need to “know” what the remit of the board is and how they like to be presented with issues for approval.

Some senior management/ boards like to be able to have comment on the choices to be made. They prefer not be presented with a fait accompli but with a strategic choice, which they can debate and consider.

On the other hand, management and boards that have confidence in their working teams, are prepared to endorse decisions, provided they have been presented with key decisions prior to the final endorsement.

In all programmes that I have been involved with over the past 30 years, the most problematic and least satisfactory ones are those in which the client made critical decisions at the WRONG time – either focusing in on detail too early without sufficient reference to the larger strategic goal; not allowing sufficient time for key decisions to be taken; or not framing the goals and identifying barriers at the outset.

IN SUMMARY, THE THREE INFLEXION POINTS IN MAKING DECISIONS COME WHEN YOU ARE:

  1. Framing the problem or issue whilst also identifying hurdles, including those required for senior level buy-in
  2. Considering the possible solutions and options presented, and whether they all answer the brief in some way, albeit not perfectly.
  3. Getting senior management or board approval early on in the process, and not at the end of it. Understanding how they like to be treated in important decisions for which they will be held accountable and presenting the issues and solution them  in a timely manner.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kim has over 30 years of branding, marketing and design experience in Asia and has lectured and written extensively on the subject of branding, strategy development, marketing and design across the region.