What are some common pitfalls related to decision making, and how can I avoid them?
I'm working on developing my decision making skills. What are the most common pitfalls and how can I help avoid them?
Decision-making is like catching greased pigs—it's nearly always difficult to get your hands on the whole information package—and working under time constraints makes it even harder. It's important to be aware of the most common traps and take action to avoid them. The following table lists some of the most common pitfalls and what you can do about them.
Not clear that a decision is needed. Many decisions drag on simply because it isn't clear that a decision needs to be made. Help the business partners identify the important decisions and keep drawing attention to them until they're made.
Not enough information to make a decision. Making decisions based on incomplete or inaccurate information usually brings poor results for the individual, the project, and/or the organization. Help your business partners gather the information they need to make good decisions, and call their attention to any gaps in knowledge or understanding. Help them understand that their attitude can also impact their ability to decide wisely—the more positive the attitude, the more likely they'll make a wise decision.
Decision-maker not clearly identified. Too often, several people think they own a decision, or there's a general assumption that one person is accountable for the decision, when it's really someone else's call. Sometimes, no one knows who owns the decision. You can help avoid this potentially paralyzing situation by applying your analytical skills, your stakeholder tools, and your accountability chart to help everyone understand where the buck stops when it's time to make decisions of various kinds.
Too many choices The project team members can sometimes be so overwhelmed by the sheer weight of choices that it becomes impossible to make good decisions, or their judgment becomes clouded. When this happens, leverage your analytical skills and decision-analysis tools to whittle down the options to a more easily managed number.
Not enough good choices. People easily fall into the trap of making a decision when there aren't enough good choices yet. To prevent this, apply your problem-solving and brainstorming skills, and start generating alternatives.
Deciding too soon. If you decide too soon, you may miss a better option. That's a good argument for setting acceptance criteria that include fixed dates, before which decisions can still be made. If you find people making decisions too far ahead of the deadline, ask some probing questions to see if taking more time might improve the quality of the decisions.
Deciding too late or under pressure. When decisions get put off and the work flow heats up, people often panic and rush to decide. Waiting too long to make decisions can result in the decisions no longer being relevant, or it can force the decision-maker to decide while feeling frazzled—hardly the ideal state for making decisions calmly and objectively. Help the business set deadlines for the last point before which decisions are likely to be objective and effective. As that date approaches, if you find that no decision has been made, probe for the reasons and lend a hand to gather any missing information.