Evaluate decisions within a given timeframe
It’s important with any project to build in reviews at appropriate times to evaluate the progress being made and to determine whether any important decisions need amending or superseding. Suitable times for review include the end of component stages of the project. However, sometimes you get the chance for continuous monitoring and feedback, and so you could review according to specific timelines, e.g. every week or month, or when certain types of responses should have been received from target audiences. These types of responses include homework required from business users or business commitment to providing project resources. If you aren’t sure of the best time to do the reviews, ask your team members or other stakeholders of the project. Often, an independent third party gives a fresh viewpoint.
Decide key criteria to measure the effectiveness of the decision
Select measurable criteria to judge whether the decision is working as well as you want. By keeping to measurable criteria, you have figures to refer to rather than subjective views and your own ego. For instance, you could set measures on:
- Your Business Case: measurable KPIs / Costs / ROI metrics
- Value Chain efficiency improvement targets
- Assess Business Maturity & Program Readiness
- People and cultural impact assessments, etc.
Even though you may feel passionate about the project, confine yourself to making factual statements to others, especially to senior management, about the project’s effectiveness. Senior managers won’t respect you if you have glowingly described a project that needs resuscitation shortly after you have started it. Don’t allow your emotions or ego colour your view or cause you to delay making a necessary change.
Listen to other’s views
Even though you may strongly support a decision relating to a project, don’t allow yourself to be irrationally tied to that decision. If others are telling you a decision isn’t working out, be prepared to listen and be prepared to cut your losses by pulling the plug. Too many people hang on to business decisions for too long because they have an emotional attachment to the project and don’t want to appear weak by reversing the decision. Or by not wanting to admit a mistake to senior managers. However, senior managers will respect you more if you bite the bullet and are decisive about reversing a decision.
Reverse a decision decisively
Don’t hope that procrastination will make the problem go away. Reversing a decision is a decision in itself and sends a signal to others that you are able to move quickly to fix a situation – and that you aren’t too proud to do so. Treat it as a good learning experience – we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Move on emotionally; don’t feel sorry for yourself. By admitting you have been wrong you will gain more respect from others. Comfort yourself that making a bad decision isn’t as bad as sticking with a bad decision.
By setting up a review mechanism for your projects at key points of time, you will give yourself a better chance of fixing bad decisions and keeping the project on track for success.
Four ways to deal with problematic situations
Below is a quick reference diagram for what you can do if you are reviewing your options for decision making when confronted by a problematic situation or issue. Worth keeping at hand for reference.
How to avoid bad decisions
1. Our thinking is umm @!#@% sorry….unintentionally stupid.
We tend to kid ourselves that we make rational decisions. Human decisions are often deeply influenced by irrational factors such as heuristics and cognitive biases.
Warning signs that you are about to unintentionally do something silly:
- You are tired, emotional, in a rush, or distracted, and/or
- You are working in a group or working with an authority figure.
The takeaway: Never make important decisions when you are tired, emotional, distracted, or in a rush.
2. We solve the wrong problem.
In a group, the first person to state the problem rarely has the best insight into the problem. Once a problem is discussed with the team, however, we tend to forget to first ask if we’re solving the right problem.
Warning signs you are solving the wrong problem:
- You let someone else define the problem for you.
- You are far away from the problem.
- You are thinking about the problem at only one level or through a narrow lens.
The takeaway: Never let anyone else define the problem for you.
3. We use incorrect or insufficient information.
People don’t always tell us the truth or understand the full facts of what they are talking about. And we also like to think we have all the information we need.
Warning signs you have incorrect or insufficient information:
- You are speaking to someone who spoke to someone who spoke to someone. Someone (you!) will get into trouble when the truth emerges.
- You are reading about it in the news.
The takeaway: Look for information from someone as close to the source as possible. They have earned their knowledge and have developed an understanding that you don’t have. When information is filtered for various reasons, consider the motives and incentives of your sources and their proximity to earned knowledge.
4. We fail to learn.
People make the same mistakes over and again. You must reflect on your reactions. Reflection has to be part of your process, not what you do if you think you have time. Don’t use the excuse of being too busy or getting too invested in protecting your ego. Overall, you can’t learn from experience without reflection. Only reflection allows us to distil experience into something we can learn from to make better decisions in the future.
Warning signs you are not learning:
- You think you are too busy to reflect.
- You don’t keep track of your decisions.
- You can’t evaluate your own decision-making.
The takeaway: Be less busy. Keep a learning journal. Reflect every day.
5. We focus on appearances over outcomes.
We are conditioned to do easy over what’s right. After all, it’s often easier to signal being virtuous than actually being virtuous.
Warning signs you are focused on perceptions:
- You are thinking about how you will defend your decision.
- You are knowingly choosing what’s defendable over what’s right.
- You would make a different decision if you owned the firm, company or organisation.
- You realise you are saying what your boss would want.
The takeaway: Act as you would want an employee to act if you owned the firm, company or organisation.
Avoiding bad decisions is just as important as making good ones. Knowing the warning signs and having a set of rules for your decision-making process reduces the amount of luck you need to get good outcomes.