There are a number of common mistakes that people make when it comes to decision making. When you have to make a complicated decision, don’t put it off. Take a systematic approach and involve key stakeholders so that you can consider different perspectives.
Consider the long-term consequences of your actions, and make sure you communicate your decisions to everyone that it affects. And don’t be afraid to admit it if your decision turns out to be wrong.
When you push your decision to the back of your mind and do other, less important tasks, or seek distractions such as making cups of coffee, you’re probably procrastinating. Putting off making a decision can worsen your situation, and burying your head in the sand won’t make it go away.
One strategy is to give yourself a small window of time in which to start working on your problem. Procrastinators often don’t know where to start, and find decisions overwhelming, but breaking them down into manageable blocks of time reduces the pressure for you to do it all.
Believing it is “make or break”
Can you think back to an important decision where you felt like the weight of the world was on your shoulders, and that making the wrong choice might make or break you?
We’ve all been there, whether it’s deciding to take a new job, launch a new product, or buy a new house. But while it may have seemed like the biggest decision of your life at the time, ask yourself how you feel about it now. By re-framing the way we look at our decisions, we can gain new perspectives about the choices we have to make.
One approach is to think about the worst thing that could happen if you make the ‘wrong’ choice. In some cases, when human life or large sums of money are involved, for example, a poor decision can be genuinely disastrous. In these scenarios, you will have to explore risks and possible consequences very carefully. But in many situations, the worst case is actually not as bad as you think; and even if the decision turns out to be a bad one, you’ll likely learn some valuable lessons along the way.
Not being systematic
When you need to make an important decision, such as whether to launch a new product or develop an existing one, do you go on ‘gut feel’, or do you weigh up each option’s merits in a methodical, calculated way?
Making a decision can be exciting and stressful, so to help you deal with these emotions objectively, you need to use a structured approach. A logical and ordered process can help you address all of the critical elements needed for a successful outcome, and reduce the likelihood of overlooking important factors.
Our eight step, decision making approach looks at how you can create a constructive environment, investigate the situation, and generate good alternatives. It also includes how to explore your options to select the right one, how to evaluate your plans, and what to consider when communicating your decisions.
1. Not considering different perspectives
Many of us are guilty of rushing decisions, particularly when there’s a deadline looming and we’re under pressure. But rather than making a snap decision, make sure you consider a range of perspectives.
Before you try to solve an important problem, try to brainstorm the various people and elements that are affected, so that you get a rounded view of your decision. By considering the situation from, different perspectives your decision making should be much more comprehensive.
2. Not involving stakeholders
When making an important decision that affects other people, you need to involve key stakeholders. They will have insights and information that will affect the choices you make, and this will help you make better decisions. Furthermore, it pays for you to gain their buy-in as you often have to rely on them to implement your decisions.
Make sure that these key stakeholders are well represented within your decision-making group, so that you build their commitment to your decision.
3. Not avoiding psychological bias
There are many other psychological biases that we are all susceptible to in decision making, which can cause us to act in an illogical way. These include having a tendency to jump to conclusions, expecting past events to influence the future, and blaming others when things go wrong, rather than objectively looking at the situation.
4. Being overconfident
Many of us think of ourselves as objective and fair-minded, and we consider all the information available to us to come to a sound conclusion about a problem. However, it’s easy to make poor decisions if you become overconfident in your own knowledge, particularly if people think of you as an ‘expert’.
People often make their reputations for expertise and good judgment by being careful and methodical in their decision making. However, they can let this slip as they get more confident, relying less on analysis and more on ‘gut feel’. This is where sloppiness and mistakes can occur.
If you over-rely on your own opinions, you might be guilty of confirmation bias. This is when you look for information that supports your existing beliefs, and reject data that goes against what you think is true. This can lead you to make bad decisions, because you don’t factor in all of the relevant information.
While ‘going with your gut’ can feel like the right thing to do sometimes, you need to make sure your hunch is based on information that you’ve gathered systematically. To improve your decision making, consider the sources that you tend to rely on when you make decisions and actively look for new ones.
Not thinking about the consequences
We can sometimes find decisions difficult to make because we worry about their long-term consequences. However, some people forget to consider how their choices might affect the future, and focus on the ‘here and now’ instead.
Not communicating effectively
Once you’ve made a decision that affects others, you need to tell them about it. One of the worst mistakes people make is not communicating their decisions in a timely or appropriate way, and this can cause rumours to spread among your team or throughout the organisation.
Carrying on regardless
No one likes admitting to making the wrong decisions, particularly when you’ve battled to get your way, or when there are political, emotional, moral, or financial implications to changing direction. Unfortunately, one of the traps that some people fall into is to ‘escalate’ their commitment, far more than a rational decision maker would.
People do this largely because they cling to an over-optimistic view of the future, hoping that their original decision will eventually come right. It tends to happen when they’ve already got a strong emotional investment in the hard work they’ve put into the project, and they may feel that ‘cutting their losses’ means they are admitting that they’re no good at their job.
When weighing up whether to go ahead with a decision, you have to realise that the time and money you’ve already spent on the project are ‘sunk costs’ that you can never recover, and that you need to put them behind you for decision making purposes. You need to remain objective, consider the facts before you, and try to keep your emotions out of it.