Your ability to make decisions and bonus points if they are the right decisions will determine your success more than most other variables in the success equation. It is fortunate for us then that decision making is more of a skill than a God-given talent. Like any other skill, natural ability is largely randomly distributed and more importantly, a skill can be nurtured and improved. Makes sense that we should discuss ways to improve your decision making.
One of the markers of successful people is how quickly they make decisions and move to action. So one of the things you have to work at is learning to make decisions faster. There are many obstacles in the way of this including Parkinson’s law which states people will take as much as much time as they are allowed to complete tasks. I wanted to start with speed because the speed at which you arrive at decisions is less about how fast you make the decision itself and more about how fast you carry out all the other activities we will mention here. Speed comes through practice and experience so that is something you grow into. You will see as we discuss the other tips.
Know your parameters (CSFs and KPIs)
Parameters is a fancy word for measures, that is, the measures used to determine the success or failure of an action. There are two important measures in particular for any action or decision we make that you should have in mind. Critical Success Factors (CSFs) are the factors which are important in decisions. So things like making more money, earning a higher return on investment and saving money are examples of CSFs. It’s important to identify these measures’ effectiveness because they are often sacrificed at the altar for efficiency. The second measure is Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which are quantifiable measures of how well the activity is being done. So measures such as how much more money you make or how much higher the return on investment is. Being clear about these parameters gives you the basis on which to judge how good an alternative is compared to others.
Investigate and Research
When we say better decision making we mean arriving at the right decision and what is right varies with circumstances. One thing that we can agree on is that most if not all poor decisions have their root cause as working with poor or incomplete information. Let us use a simple example which I hope many can relate to. You have worked out a budget and you want to invest what you save every month. You pick a very attractive investment alternative only to find that it requires a huge amount of money to get started. This is what we call incomplete information. Your ability to investigate and research boils down to two things; asking the right questions and asking the right people.
All options are viable
This may run a little contradictory to the previous point but they work together to make you a better decision-maker. One big mistake I see many people make is excluding options early. If we follow our previous example many would strike off all other alternatives (and therefore stop investigating them) once they are enamoured by the attractive option. That’s a big mistake especially if things go as we stated earlier. Research all options as if they are viable until it is clear based on all parameters that an option is not viable. This may slow down your process but it is worth it.
Not mutually exclusive
The final tip does not apply to all your decisions but it does address another mistake I see people make often. Some alternatives in decision making are mutually exclusive but this is not always the case. In many cases where you are asked to choose between A or B, the best answer is A and B. A good example is when people want to decide whether to save, invest or insure themself. The correct answer is all three. If all three cannot be done at once then a hierarchy is required to prioritise them. This doesn’t exclude whichever options come second and third but simply pushes them down the priority list.
Learning and mastering these tips is a process so they are things you continuously improve. They will contribute to better decision making on your part.