Wisdom in Making Decisions....STICKY

Uncategorized Apr 13, 2019

"Is that your final answer?" 

Have you ever wanted to use that line in an important meeting?  I have.  Many Times.  In my 30-year consulting career, we get to a place where we want the client to make the final decision.  Because they want to make an informed decision, we've gathered information.  We've analyzed the data.  We've interviewed the experts.  We've researched the leading practices.  Here we go….and … Nope.  Another area to study or another person to talk to.  I can't blame them.  Not only is this project at stake, but their reputation is on the line.  Heck, their career hung in balance based on this one Big Decision.

Making Rational Decisions

From the very start of my consulting career, I was enamored with how people, groups and organizations make decisions.  You'd think they rely mostly on a rational decision-making model. 

Step 1:  State Decision 

Step 2.  Develop Criteria

Step 3.  Assign Weights to Criteria

Step 4.  Brainstorm Options

Step 5.  Gather Data for Each Option

Step 6.  Rate Options Based on Criteria

Step 7.  Choose Highest Rated Option

Most decision-making processes follow the rational decision-making model to some degree, but somewhere along the line it falls off the rails.  A really sexy option enters the race late.  It doesn't meet the criteria, but OOOOH, wouldn't that new technology be cool?  Or a message comes from "on high" to consider Option Y.  No one really knows why Option Y, but the folks on top must have SOME reason Option Y is the right choice.  Or my favorite is, "yes, I know all the analysis points to Option B but my gut says Option G.  Let's go with that." 

My Dad told me there's three decisions in our lifetime that no rational decision-making model can justify.  Buying a car.  Buying a home.  And getting married.  On a spreadsheet, the Pros don't rationally outweigh the Cons.  Let's just say he believed the emotional component is too hard to measure.

A critical decision is an essential unit of value for any project, business or organization.  Let's start with the definition of decision.  Webster says a decision is a conclusion or resolution, reached after consideration.  Big decisions define the future path.  There's always something on the line with the Big Decision.  Working on 82 projects in my 30-year career, I worked with countless executives to make … The Big Decision.  Three things make a decision….Good. 

Making Sticky Decisions

First, you want to make a HIGH QUALITY decision.  That goes back to the rational decision-making model.  Adequate decision criteria.  Comprehensive options.  Adequate data and analysis.  Expert perspectives.  Too little of these parts and we 'hip-shoot' the Big Decision.  Too much of these parts and we suffer Analysis Paralysis.  Just like the little bear with his porridge, we need it 'just right.'  I often coached my teams that we wanted to find the minimum amount of information for an executive to make an informed decision.  It's quite an Art to know the executive's decision-making style and what satisfies their decision-making requirements.  The perfect situation was when we had one more level of detail or one more expert opinion than needed.  BAM!   Big Decision, Made!

Second, you want to make a decision FAST.  Sometimes we let the fear of the Big Decision get us stuck in a spin cycle of data gathering and analysis.  Yes, the Analysis Paralysis problem.  Deadlines come and go.  The decision either fizzles into nothingness or an external factor forces the default decision.  Rarely the best decision.  One strategy I used to get decisions made quickly was what I call the 5 Yes's.  If you know the Big Decision is coming, craft 4 mini-decisions that lead up to the Big One!  They say Yes to the Decision #1.  Yes to Decision #2.  Yes to Decision #3.  Yes to Decision #4.  And here's the Big One….YES to Decision #5.  CONGRATULATIONS!  Breaking the Big Decision down into chewable chunks is much easier to swallow.

Third, you want to make that Big Decision, STICK.  This is the toughest of the three components of a good decision.  Remember our definition of decision?  It's a conclusion or resolution.  Decisions are Gates.  Before you get to that gate, there is consideration.  This is the rational decision-making model stuff.  Once you pass through the Gate, you enter the other side.  New territory.  A Greener Pasture!  A New World to Explore!  Unfortunately, too many decisions get undone.  Buyer's remorse.  Refunds.  De-conversions.  Undone decisions are rarely good. 

Lock in that Big Decision by treating it as a gate!  Take 5 quick actions immediately following the Big Decision.  Communicate the Big Decision across the organization.  Throw a big party to celebrate the Big Decision.  Assign people to the new project.  Release the pre-payment invoice.  Schedule the first coaching session. 

Perhaps there's wisdom in my Dad's point of view about getting married as an irrational decision.  We lock in that Big Decision by having big weddings, creating the ultimate Big Decision Gate! 


We face Big Decisions.  They define our future.  Let's make the Big Decision, Good, by focusing on three components:

  • Make it a High Quality Decision
  • Make it Fast
  • Make it Stick

With the right process, sticky decisions are celebrated with no looking back!  Let's explore new frontiers!!


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