Chip Heath and Dan Heath have an awesome book for processing meaningful decisions – Decisive. Blink responses only have a chance of working in area’s of expertise, with careful training, and predictable environments. New decisions require new information. Here’s how I’ve condensed the key questions they suggest asking yourself before making big decisions…
Widen Your Options
- If you couldn’t take this option, what would you do? Instead of asking, “How can I make this work?” ask “What else could we do?”
- Does anyone disagree on what to do? If so, you have real options.
- What options prevent negative outcomes? What options promote positive outcomes? Can I cut here to grow there?
- Who else has solved our problem? Competitive analysis, benchmarking, and best practices help.
Reality Test Your Assumptions
- What’s the most probable way I could fail to get the right information about the situation? Ask pinpointed questions of pinpointed sources that will tell you what you need to know.
- Zoom Out – What is the trending rating on those who’ve gone this route?
- Zoom In – What’s the comments and personal experiences of those who’ve gone this route?
- Again, Who else has solved our problem? Look at their past and present, but don’t let them predict future.
- Can I do this at a small scale before jumping in? Ooch. Fire bullets before cannon balls.
Attain Distance Before Deciding
- What would my successor do?
- What long-term values trump my short-term emotions?
- How will I feel about this decision 10 minutes from now, 10 months from now, 10 years from now? Answering this gets a handle on upfront risk aversion, in relation to long-term probabilities.
- What would I tell my best friend to do?
- Which tasks and activities are Mission-Critical? And what’s the rest that’s stealing from that?
Prepare to Be Wrong
- What’s the best and the worst possible opportunity cost for this decision? What’s the best and the worst possible outcome for this decision? This is bookending. Pull the trigger when the opportunity cost falls on the low end of that range, and your ready to live with anything in the outcome range. This helps us see that the future isn’t a point; it’s a range of possibilities.
- How like is failure… and how severe are the ramifications of failing?
- What’s your tripwire? What needs to happen by when (or what’s the max you’ll invest in it), to tell you the plan isn’t working… before failure crushes you? In other words, when/how will you know to cut your losses.
- Whose criticism do you need to value? When you have critics (and you will), just make sure you hear them out and value their take on things. People will follow decisions they don’t agree with, as long as they feel the decision process was equitably.