Too often I encounter leaders and employees struggling to make decisions. This is especially common with group decisions. Typically, the group is considering two or three alternatives with lists of pros and cons for each. They go around and around and just can’t seem to reach a conclusion. So here is my advice.
1. SOAR through Decisions with a disciplined process.
Follow my ‘SOAR through Decisions‘ process. If you haven’t been SOARing, you will probably have to move backwards to move forward. Most likely you are stuck on Step #3 because you skipped Step #2, and maybe even Step #1. A disciplined decision process is especially valuable for group decisions. Even groups of two. It gets everyone on the same page.
2. Consider the importance of the decision.
Some decisions just aren’t very important. They don’t deserve a lot of your precious time. They certainly aren’t worth a lot of stress. It always pays to put assess the importance of a decision before you get embroiled in it. Don’t even let yourself begin to agonize over an unimportant decision. Pick an alternative and move on to Step #4. What is the down side? If you can live with the downside or minimize it, then be done and move on. Not every decision has to be perfect. This is especially true for unimportant decisions.
3. Examine the actual gap between alternatives.
If you are still stuck, compare the alternatives. Are they really that different? Will they really produce different results in the long run? I can’t tell you how often I meet people weighing options endlessly when the consequences look virtually identical. Pick the easiest path or flip a coin and move on.
4. Reframe the decision.
If you are wrestling with an important decision, SOARing with discipline, considering a variety of alternatives, and still stuck, you may be trying to make the wrong decision. Go back to Step #1 of SOAR and reconsider the decision at hand. What are you trying to accomplish? If you are debating A vs. B or Yes vs. No, I guarantee that you are making the wrong decision. Step up to a level. A decision such as whether to offer product A or product B now becomes, how can we increase market share among millennials?
5. Clarify your objectives.
What criteria should govern this decision? This is Step #2 of SOAR so I’m sure you’ve already done this. However, whenever you are stuck in a decision, it makes sense to reexamine your objectives, priorities, and constraints. Of all the criteria, which are most important? Among those that are most important, are any of them show stoppers? Don’t confuse the non-negotiable “musts” with mere “wants.”
6. Find more alternatives.
Another common stumbling block is inadequate alternatives. There are always more alternatives than first meet the eye. Brainstorm. Be sure to include the status quo – doing nothing. Sometimes the status quo looks pretty good compared to the alternatives under consideration, and sometimes it makes multiple alternatives look a lot better!
7. Tackle the risk and/or uncertainty.
If you are still stuck, I suspect you are mired in risk or uncertainty.
- Challenge your assumptions about what must or might happen in various scenarios.
- Don’t generalize. Broad risks and worries shrink to manageable issues when you get specific.
- Figure out what you need to learn to get comfortable and go do the research. This includes learning about what could go wrong.
- Bring in an expert to help you understand the risks and best ways to mitigate or avoid those risks.
Worry paralyzes. Get to the bottom of those worries so you can make your decision and move on.
If you are still stuck, delegate the decision! Obviously you are not in a place to sort this one out.
SOAR through decisions with a disciplined process and these pragmatic tips for greater clarity, confidence, and speed.
Where do you usually get stuck? Which tip do you think will help you the most?
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com on October 11th, 2016.