July 3, 2014

Decision making

There are numerous books and advice on the ability to make decisions. At the end of this page I have listed some good books on personal development which I have used and recommend.

Getting a city boy salary naturally requires you to be an authority on your subject and therefore other people will look to you to make decisions. You need to be able to do this quickly and confidently.

In your working life in the city you will be making all sorts of decisions, from what technologies to use, what meetings to attend, how to prioritise your workload and even what to wear.

In my experience, I have found that making a decision can be broken down into component parts. Through analysis of these components we can come to understand more about how to make decisions.  The ability to actually make a decision comes from different parts of our consciousness at different times, in other words, sometimes we use a more deliberative decision-making process and at other times we are more intuitive. Understanding how you make decisions is key to being successful both in work and in life.

 

Definition of a decision

I have defined a decision as

The realisation that you have a choice, weighing up the options, choosing one of them and allocating an amount of energy and commitment to the outcome.

Realisation of choice

Common NLP quote:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got

At any given moment, you have the choice to keep on doing what you are doing, or do something different. Most of the time, minute by minute, for efficiency, we don’t need to keep consciously re-evaluating our actions. We naturally program rhythms into our subconscious so we can be more efficient with the energy we have.

If you think about learning to drive, when you first start, you have to make the decision consciously to do everything, such as change gear, steer round a parked car etc. However, very quickly these things become part of our learned reactions. So it is with all things in life.

The first part of making a decision is to realise that you have a choice. As part of joining the city boy salary course, you have decided that you have a choice in your future. This is the hardest part of making a decision.

 

Reasons for choices becoming apparent

In I.T. we have guidelines about best practices, the best processes, design patterns and codes of ethics. The realisation that you are faced with a choice of direction will come naturally the more you learn and experience these guidelines for success as you will have more alternatives at your fingertips. There are two reasons for choices to become apparent to the conscious mind. I call these the positive and the negative triggers.

 

The negative trigger 

The negative trigger is caused by pain, fear or the need to get away from something bad.

When you on a real life project, the circumstances may not be as perfect, and you and your team will feel the pain as you and your team’s ideals clash with the way things are presently done. You may be facing problems that are harder than usual because the practice in place is not conducive to solving those problems.

The need to change becomes apparent and the need for a decision arises.

 

The positive trigger

Positive triggers come about through our natural desire to improve ourselves and world around us. This may happen through Eureka http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eureka_effect moments or after being exposed to some external source of new information, such an article, new best practice or pages on this web site!

With new information and learning, you are able to see better ways to achieve what you are already doing and the need for a decision arises.

 

Weighing up the options

To weigh up options, you must first have options. This will come from your learning, experience, collaboration with others, research and good judgement.

When weighing up options we usually take one of two approaches (and sometimes a mixture of them both). The first is the cost benefit analysis and the second is an intuitive choosing process (or gut feel).

The amount we use each of these approaches will largely dependent on the problem at hand, ability to weigh choices against some common scale and the experience and knowledge of the problem of the decision maker.

Whichever approach you do, you need to choose one of the options.

Resources:

The decision to do nothing

Deciding to do nothing is a perfectly valid option. Sometimes it is better to continue rather than change. For it to be a decision however, the definition of decision must be followed, including allocating energy and commitment to the continued path.

Allocating energy and commitment to the outcome

Once an option has been chosen, for the decision to be complete, an amount of commitment is needed to allow the results of the decision to be realised. Without this step, the decision is an academic exercise.

For this to happen, you must understand the amount of energy (resource, money and time) required to see the path of action through to completion. If this energy is not available, perhaps another choice is required.

 

Simon Powers
Simon Powers is an Agile Coach specialising in large scale transformations and agile adoption. He has a background in very large enterprise architecture which has led on to organisational design and agile process refinement. Simon is the founder of Adventures with Agile.