3 Tools for Effective Decision Making

3 Tools for Effective Decision Making

By Samuel Aiki

I have two amazing potential employees and each has the required skillset.

A is shy (like the young Bill Gates), loves to learn on the job, teachable, and a good listener but with very poor hygiene. He is target-driven but could be so sold out to a task that he misses the forest for the trees. A loves to stick to a Job Description and would deliver good results every time. A is a genius who comes up with amazing ideas.

B is a rake (even Bill Clinton in his prime had nothing on the dudeJ), a perfect gentleman (in fact, a lady’s man), experienced enough but very opinionated. He is the typical jerk on the job, but the life of the party when he visits a restaurant with the team. Immensely talented but someone who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He is a bad listener but also a very fast learner. B enjoys wearing many hats but might not deliver results when you want him to.

Who should I choose for my team? A or B?

I think decision making is the ultimate leadership ability. Often times, we are faced with simple and complex decisions. 2 or more promising job offers, a sea of suitors/employees to choose from, multiple telecommunications operators, many banks, many cities, multiple car brands, many churches, many mosques, etc. In most cases, the difficulty of choice stems from the inability to see all options simultaneously and assess them rationally. Besides, cognitive dissonance throws our reasoning off balance. I have come across three decision making tools that have served me pretty well and which I believe could benefit you as well.

 

  1. Zero-based Thinking (ZBT)

Often times, the difficulty in decision making stems from uncertainty or the so-called fear of the unknown. However, with some experience gained on a decision path and thus possession of sufficient information to make informed decisions, we still often fail to see clearly due to sentimental attachments. A failing relationship, a blind-alley career path, a terrible service contract with a conditional lock-in, an unproductive working relationship, etc often present sentimental encumbrances to effective decision making.

This tool helps us to see clearly beyond the so-called sunk cost. Some of us pursue lost causes with prime time and prime resources. Basically, ZBT asks … with all I know today, if the hands of time were turned backward, would I still choose the same path? It also follows that … If I didn’t have that m: relationship, old piece of clothing, opportunity, new toy, new friend, marriage, job, etc, with all I know today, if I were to take a zero-based decision, would I look for that m? If the answer is no, ZBT says “cut your losses, life is too “long”!” Someone once said… if plan A doesn’t work after enough persistence, screw it, there are 25 other alphabets! Don’t focus too long on the closed door and thus become blinded to the opening one!

To choose between two promising jobs, maybe you can intern in both or attend a day at work program or just have lunch with one of the current employees. Any piece of additional information would lead you to a more informed decision.

  1. Best WA

In his book “Take the Risk”, Pediatric Neurosurgeon, Ben Carson described a framework he has used to very great effect in his decisions. It’s called the Best-Worst Analysis. One can choose to take a decision or not e.g. hire an employee or not or date that sassy girl or not. The question is: What is the Best/Worst that could happen if one takes/does not take this decision. This leads to a 3*3 matrix (See Table 1) with an option tabulated against the worst and best that could happen if it is taken/if not. The best choice is usually that for which one can accept the worst that could happen. This is usually best applicable for scenarios in which one can say Yes/No to an opportunity/path.

Table 1 Best-Worst Analysis

  BEST thing that could happen WORST thing that could happen
Quit your job and start your own company Build a dynamic company with immense impact on society and stakeholders Company doesn’t succeed, but a lot of learning has taken place
Don’t quit your job, stay in this role Progress to the next level or get an international assignment Remain in career rut, life is without purpose and one is unhappy

 

For example, what if I take her on a date and she ends up boring? Ok, she gets to pick her own check. Great! If she’s interesting and I seem interested, I’d ask her to the disco.

If we employ A, maybe we could help him with some interpersonal and soft skills training. Will A improve? Does B want to improve or will his blind spots get in the way? What if B’s personality ruins general employee morale? I think that’s why companies employ people on probation or take on interns to test the waters and check out the ZBT pulse or to determine the Worst that could happen.

 

  1. Alternatives versus Values Table

This tool provides a detailed and simultaneous view of all alternatives and values. It makes the decision making process easy on the human mind by providing objective metrics for which each option could be considered.

This tool suggests that one tabulates one’s values from every option of choice on a vertical sidebar, rate them e.g. (1-10 if there are 10 values with 10 as most preferred value) according to one’s order of value preference and then assess all options by cross-tabulating them on the horizontal heading and ranking them accordingly. A product of value rating and alternative rank will then be computed for each value and alternative (See Table 2 for an employment type choice). The best choice is that with the highest total grade i.e. own Business in this case. Operations managers/buyers who engage in vendor selections use a similar approach in choosing suppliers/vendors.

Table 2 Alternatives versus Values

Alternatives Job type 1 Job type 2 Own Business
 Values Rating Rank Grade Rank Grade Rank Grade
Professional Advancement 8 10 80 9 72 7 56
Achievement 9 9 81 10 90 8 72
Financial independence 7 5 35 6 42 9 63
Creative Confidence 10 1 10 7 70 10 100
Networking and Relationships 5 6 30 8 40 2 10
Work-Life Balance 6 4 24 4 24 6 36
Leadership 4 3 12 3 12 5 20
International Travel 3 8 24 2 6 4 12
Additional Responsibilities 2 7 14 1 2 3 6
Actualization 1 2 2 5 5 1 1
Total 312 Total 363 Total 376

 

In summary, more often than not, the best we can do is to take the most rational decision. Life itself is a risk and there are no guarantees. Even for the clairvoyant, complex decisions will always be challenging. That charming prince might end up being a terrible husband. That sleek car might have expensive maintenance or suspension issues. That job might be demotivating and monotonous. The best we can always do at those forks of life is to view things rationally and take the risk with commitment to make things work. Afterwards, ZBT might help when we need to pivot.

As for whether to employ A or B, I’d leave you to do the alternatives vs values analysis and share the values you selected and the result you obtained. You’d be surprised how easily that tool solves the problem for you. As for most decisions, there is hardly any wrong answer, just rational and irrational ones.

Samuel Aiki wrote this article. He is a co-founder at Foodlocker, an e-Commerce + Agritech + Retail start-up. He has strong interests in infrastructure development, business turnaround, brown and green field projects, strategic alliances, financial markets, operations, start-ups, capital raising, project finance, real estate and investments.

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