7 key principles to effective decisions (techies note #3)

Remember your last major decision,
    • Was the decision making process an enjoyable or stressful experience?
    • What was your approach?
    • Would you consider it  a ‘good’ decision?


All of us are faced with making decisions each day of our lives, whether we consciously realize it or not. In each of these decision moments, we ask the who, how, when, should, why, where and what questions to help us move through the decision process.

good decisions faster - decision making

Decision making process is both science and art. The science of decision making involves a series of logical steps that leads to the decision.

The ‘art’ of effective decision making is reflected by the ability to make decisions and the quality of decisions.

The ability to make quality decisions is a skill

The ability of decision making is a learned skill. Like many other learned skills it varies greatly among people depending on fostering that ability at some point in their life. Those people who had  mentoring parents or were in situations early on in life that warranted frequent decision making develop a very strong ability.

We find many examples in the stories of successful people who developed decision making ability early in life. On the other hand, like a muscle not exercised many have that ability lacking and often struggle making decisions in life. The struggle is due to lack of understanding of decision making process or simply the ability in decision making.

The good news is anyone can develop and master the skill. Indeed decision making skill is a lifelong learning experience, one getting better with practice over time.

Making effective decisions for success

Here are 7 principles that you can use as a check list going through the decision making process on a current issue or matter you are dealing with:

1. Decide to decide and own the decision

Procrastination is one of the common symptoms found among those who are in situations having to make a decision. The procrastination symptom manifests  consciously or unconsciously in the form of avoiding making decision.

The underlying reasons are varied, but the most common reason being the fear of failure from choosing wrongly.  Those fail to realize that not making a decision is a decision in itself which might result in an outcome that is not acceptable.

So, decide to decide is the first step.

Another related symptom is avoiding owning the decision. This stems directly from a ‘victim mentality’  in which the person attributes all his or her circumstances as a result of other people actions and external circumstances beyond his or her control, thereby avoiding any decision and related responsibilities and accountabilities.

In certain situations, they lean on advisors to make a decision for them in the hope of shifting responsibility and it works to a certain point in life.

Learning to own your decisions is the level of maturity that defines an adult. Seek out advisors and coaches for input, but make decisions yourself and be prepared for the responsibility.

Own the decision.

2. Identify the ‘real’ problem

Very often, we undertake the decisions making process without identifying the ‘real’ problem.

For example in health related issues, Ivan Staroversky of American Psychological Association shares that 85 to 90% of all health issues in our society are psychosomatic where the issues are related to the mind and thinking.

Taking the time to identify the real problem ensures that we are dealing with ‘the’ problem we should be dealing with and focus on making good decisions to address it.

The risk we run into when we do not take the time to identify the real problem is get entangled in an endless cycle of problem solving of peripheral and pseudo problems around the real problem.

3. Avoid information overload and analysis paralysis

There is a glut of information and opinions on any imaginable topic available online and offline. Reliable and trustworthy information is what is required to support the decision making process.

You can ask questions to Mundi to get personalized and concise information that is tailed to your problem. Go to the “Ask Questions” page to submit your question related to your problem.

Trying to find as much information as possible is a potential pitfall many experience. The risk is the  resulting information overload and clouding of judgement. All that is needed is just adequate amount of good reliable information to support making decision.

Related to information overload is another pitfall of analysis paralysis resulting from dealing with the volume of information. There is a real risk of analysis fatigue to be aware of and avoid. This is where you need a reliable and trustworthy decision support system.

4. Trust your instinct

For many the good decisions feel right intuitively or gut feeling as it is referred to often. People with years of experience such as a professional with decades of practice have a higher instinctual ability in their domain of expertise.

Do not discount what your instinct says but follow the logical steps towards decision making and resist the temptation to jump right into decision.  If you are one with strong instincts and if it has served you well in the past, leverage it but do not short the decision making process.

There is a fine line between following your instincts and speculating which you must avoid in all cases. The best way to do a self-check is reading out loud the decision summary statement which has the rational behind the decision.

One scenario  when your instinct or subconscious thinking comes to particularly good use is when the currents options that you are evaluating might not be ideal.

Recommendations such as ‘Sleeping on a problem’ or ‘Meditating’ can summon your sub-concious to  open the door to options that you might have failed to recognize or create innovative options that you can incorporate into your decision process.

5. Avoid bias

Bias is different from instinct. And the biggest difference is how emotionally connected are you to the problem. To avoid bias in the decision making process, one needs to disconnect emotionally to avoid any predisposed preference you might have towards the any particular option in the problem.

Another form of bias commonly found is many go through the decision making process with the attempt to justify the decision they have already made. They go through the decision making process to get mental support or social acceptance in some cases.

The common symptoms are gravitating to the facts and statistics that support their ‘made-up’ decision and ignoring the facts that do not. To ensure that you are not falling into this trap subconsciously, make sure that your have established the decision criteria on paper without any influence of the available options.

Another recommendation is to engage with a mentor to help you keep accountable.

6. Don’t sweat it

In many cases the ‘right’ decision is the wrong goal to aim for in particular issues. An informed decision with proper due diligence should be the goal of the decision making process.

Most of the time one needs to make an informed decision based on the available information and then make it right along the way as the information becomes available.

In such situations, one must allow for provisions or be flexible to make adjustments as necessary as and when new information becomes available.

7. Auditing Decisions

The final step is to regularly audit the decisions you have made and leverage the opportunity to learn and grow. You can monitor your decisions and the process to evaluate how effective you have been through the DIEEMA steps.

Begin with understanding yourself first and doing a self-assessments for identifying your strengths and areas of improvement.

Once you identify your natural talents and strengths, exercise your decision making muscles often to build it further. At the same time be aware of areas you might be lacking.

Knowing and being aware can assist you in improving but more importantly avoiding scenarios that prevent self sabotage. The best way is to maintain a regular log of decision scenarios, the process you undertook and the outcomes.

A decision audit log is available in the Resources page. This will help to review your decision making effectiveness, learn from mistakes and provide metrics and input to your coach and mentoring process should you have one in place. 


DIEEMA Decision Support

The  DIEEMA Decision framework defines the 6 steps (Define issue, Identify options, Establish criteria, Evaluate options, Make the decision and Act on the decision ) for making a good decision. It guides the decision process forward in a logically connected manner to arrive at the decision in the most effective manner.

In an upcoming post on “The 6-step DIEEMA Decision Ladder“. I explain each of the steps to get an understanding of the decision framework for making effective decisions.

Download the DIEEMA decision maker tool to help guide you through the steps of decisions making in a step by step manner.

decisionmakerClick to download the DIEEMA decision maker tool.

There are some common pitfalls to avoid in the decision making process. Often, many skip the important steps either because of a lack of understanding of the decision making process or shorting the process either due to the pressure and stress of the situation or having a pre-conceived bias of solution. This leads to compromising the quality and effectiveness of the decision.

Good decision makers do due diligence – following a structured step-by-step approach combined with a discerning ability as they move through each of those steps to arrive at an informed and effective decision.

Now your turn..

Let me know what you think of this article and any particular point that resonated with you. Leave a comment below and LIKE on facebook.

Post last updated: May 14, 2014

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