4 P’s To Any Decision Making
As leaders there are many traps we can fall into with regards to our decision making.
For instance, there have been many leaders who are told about an issue with an employee who rush to judgement and make a poor decision based on a small fraction of the truth. The resulting effects have led to terminations that were unfounded, jeopardizing both the employee’s career and the reputation (and potential lawsuit) to the organization and leader as well.
Sometimes leaders make a hasty decision to go forward on an initiative with little research to back it up. I’ve seen small start-ups open and close within a short time frame because they assumed everyone would love their product or service and they had little knowledge of the industry and reception in the marketplace.
Other leaders have made grave errors in product development (such as New Coke in the 1980s) that greatly diminished market share and resulted in wasted expenditures and lost revenue, which in truth never gets recovered.
Conversely there are leaders who quickly decide against a course of action as they don’t believe in the merits of the consumer data, emerging technology or other industry shifting indicators. They make a quick default decision (usually as a safety net) that ultimately costs their companies in the long run.
For any decision, whether in strategic scaling, R&D, employee management or daily operations, the following framework will challenge all leaders make better decisions. It helps with snap decision needed to be made quickly or urgently as well as those that are long-term strategies.
Pause. Stopping to give attention to the decision to be made ahead is always the most important step. If a leader makes knee-jerk decisions based on their years of experience or taking on the perceived urgency of a matter they fall into the trap of not processing the entirety of the situation. Lifeguards at the local pool will always take a moment to scan the area before deciding how to help the struggling swimmer. Pausing can be a few seconds or a longer period, but it’s essential to stop before going forward.
Ponder. Call it processing, call it thinking. To properly ponder the decision to be made, you need to consider all aspects, including those that haven’t brought to the table yet. An employee issue may be a problem with their boss and not the employee per se. An accident investigation may have other factors contributing that weren’t preventable. A change to return policies to prevent loss might actually have a negative impact to your customer experience. Consider all the necessary variables that have brought this to the present decision, and how those variables – including all people impacted – will be affected by the decision in the short and long-term future. And most importantly, get others involved in the thinking process. Many leaders fail because of their own biases here especially when the issue can be a reflection of their leadership style. Counsel with others in varying levels and views on the team to ensure as many opinions as possible are considered.
Plan. This is where you develop your approach to the decision. Sometimes this can be accomplished in tandem with pondering, but often best to be finalized after all the data is gathered. Some leaders write out their plan to help better understand the situation. Consider all the positive impacts as well as the challenges and how you pan to navigate them as they unfold. Mind mapping and decision trees can be helpful in this stage. Involve those you counselled with when pondering as well as those who will be impacted as well.
Proceed. This is the execution of the decision. Making sure your product roll-out is promoted with a consistent message. Handling the employee situation with integrity and empathy. Making the bug fix on your app or website be seamless and continue to watch the impact of the new code. Getting feedback from your staff as well as your customers to ensure the plan is going smoothly can help make any needed course correction or adjustments that couldn’t be foreseen. The proceed phase is the execution and follow through of your decision to ensure is continues to be the right one.
Stop, Think. Map it out. Then go forward. Making these phases an intuitive reflex in your leadership will go a long way to ensure consistent, thoughtful – and even ethical – decisions that will create better results in any situation.