An Initial Decision Making Technique
Is it complex?
Is it complex?
One useful initial, decision making technique is to assess a decision based on its level.
This technique may sound simplistic but it can be very helpful in determining which type of decision making process is the most suitable for any specific situation. In particular, think about the decision both in terms of its level of complexity, and the potential level of impact on your organization.
You may well have already questioned whether a decision is actually called for. If you haven’t, read our decision making lesson to help you think about whether or not there is even a decision to made. If there is, use this and our other articles on decision making to help you make the best decisions.
This decision making technique expands the concept of decision level, introduced in our article: types of decision making.
An initial way to select a type of decision making process is to determine how complex the decision is. Simple, straightforward decisions, with little impact on others or the organization, can be made easily and efficiently.
In fact, wherever possible, they should be made in this manner. Indeed, some decisions become needlessly complex precisely because a decision wasn’t made early on, when the situation was relatively simple. Try analyzing the relative complexity of your situation by asking these easy diagnostic questions:
On the basis of answers to these questions, how complex do you now think the decision is?
If you think the decision is relatively simple, is it being made at the most appropriate level in the organisation? (decisions are usually best made closest to the action, where tacit knowledge and expertise is likely to be greatest and most effective). For example:
Another way to look at the decision is to consider its importance. Here are some more questions to consider, from this perspective:
A third way to think about a decision is to ask how strategic it is. Strategic and/or organization-wide decisions have serious implications. To be successful they require the involvement and support of key people, especially those at the top! Time and resources are also often needed, along with appropriate processes and techniques to structure the decision.
It would help if you go over the above “importance” questions again but this time considering the strategic level of the decision. In addition, here are some other straightforward but thought-provoking questions to help focus your thinking:
One final amplification of this initial decision making technique is to consider whether the issue is novel or routine. For example, do you need to make:
In many cases, it’s quite likely there is a clear relationship between the complexity of a decision, and both its importance and strategic relevance. However, important decisions are neither always organisation wide, nor always complex.
On that note, we would be wise to consider two warnings from the writings of C. Northcote Parkinson. Author of the famous law which carries his name.
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. The first warning relates to the Law of Triviality which means that:
The time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved.
Avoid the tendency to spend more time on the small things because we understand them. Rather than on the important things which, being difficult and demanding, encourage avoidance! Hence the second warning:
The man who is denied the opportunity of taking decisions of importance begins to regard as important the decisions he is allowed to take.
There is clearly some overlap in the categories we’ve listed above, and in the questions we’ve posed. Nonetheless, they are a good starting point to help you reach the right decisions. Which is what any decision making technique should do!
This article is part of our discussion about types of decision making.
More on decision making styles
You’ll find more on these and other practical techniques in our e-guide: Making Better Decisions.
It’s packed with practical tools, clear processes, great tools, useful tips, thoughtful insights, and emerging ideas on “nudging” decisions.
Use the tools in this guide to help your decision making:
See for yourself how to use the 7 steps in decision making, to help you be a better manager.