alt text

Photo by flickr user marfis75

10 Steps to Follow When Making a Tough Decision

Running a company, team, or product initiative is hard work. It requires a delicate balance of people, deliverables, and impact—all of which are essential to any decision-making process. Of course, some decisions are harder to make than others.

How can you be sure that you’re making the right decision?

My Decision-Making Framework

I’ve worked in a few different industries during my career. I’ve been on product teams and engineering teams. I’ve also been on strategy teams for large companies and volunteer organizations. Over that time, I’ve developed a decision-making framework.

When you find yourself having to make a hard decision, you can’t allow your emotions to guide your decision. Keep in mind that emotions from one event can influence your response to another, unrelated event.

You also can’t let numbers alone dictate your approach to a solution. Sure, making or saving money is a priority. It shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision.

Beyond that, you shouldn’t make your decision solely because it will impress others. Your decision can be the right one for the company but your people might not like it. What if you have to lay off companies to stay financially solvent? Alternatively, you could make the wrong decision and people might love it. No employee will ever complain about an expense account with no oversight.

A New Approach to Decision-Making

While no two problems are exactly the same, you’ll have an easier time making difficult decisions if you follow these ten steps.

Frame the Problem

Look at the problem from as many different angles as possible. Ask yourself whether your solution is the only option. Try to figure out some alternatives and decide whether you can delay the decision.

Be Empathetic

Think about how your decision will affect others. Imagine that you were removed from the equation, and then consider the problem. Would your decision change?

Know Yourself

Try to determine whether you’ve seen this scenario before. You know what you’re capable of. If you think it will pay off, take a risk.

Seek Advice

You’re not the smartest person alive. Most business decisions have come up before, so ask your peers and mentors what they think about your situation. Make sure to consider all options, not just those you’ve come up with yourself.

Timebox the Process

Set a deadline for your decision and stick with it. Timebox it. The longer you dwell on a decision, the more complicated it will become.

Be Transparent

Make your thought process known to all relevant stakeholders. Any errors in your logic will be identified.

Build Consensus

The more people who agree with your decision, the easier it’ll be to implement change. Get others on board with your choice.

Plan a Path Forward

You need to assess potential fallout or backlash. Will your decision create even more complications? Plan a path forward for after your decision and follow it through.

Don’t Hesitate

When you’ve determined the way forward, go with it. You’ve done your research. Don’t delay.

Keep Learning

Use each decision-making process as a learning experience. Don’t make the same decisions over and over (unless it’s correct). Once you train yourself to recognize scenarios, tough decisions become easier to make.

When you’re trying to make an impact, you’ll meet obstacles requiring hard decisions.

The good news is that by remaining level-headed and wielding a decision-making framework, you’re much more likely to make the right decisions—and a lot quicker, too.