The Decision Is Yours

The Decision Is Yours

By Peggy Tierney, chief strategy officer, Force4 Technology Communications  

I’ve been thinking about decision making recently. As Q4 kicks off, marking the final push to meet your objectives and finish the year strong, there are the guideposts that can help you get focused to make the best decisions possible and stay aligned as a team.  

When I was at Black Hat this summer, I met a colleague for breakfast. Los Alamos National Laboratory had a booth at the show, and I asked my colleague if he had seen Oppenheimer. That led to a conversation about the profound moral weight that Oppenheimer carried, reflected in the film as a deep ambivalence.  

I had been reading The Guns of August, Barbara W. Tuchman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, on my last few business trips. It was clear that the limitations of the decision-making processes of the European political and military leaders in the early days of World War I had devastating consequences for their citizens for generations to come.  

Yet even with 20/20 hindsight (e.g., communications failures caused by a literal lack of telegraph wire), the stochastic challenges of decision making are perennial. Decisions must be made, often in the heat of the moment, with minimal information (whither the “unknown unknowns”), pattered at by the insistences of any number of associates, and ultimately made at the discretion of one person with their unique reservations, peculiarities and assumptions hovering above the button. 

Fortunately, most decisions aren’t this fraught. But they can be significant enough. How do we know we have enough information to make a decision? We have seen executives struggle with decision making, especially in environments where there is market uncertainty, anxious investors or past personal experiences that can prompt self-doubt or second-guessing. And of course, there’s never enough information to make a decision you can feel 100% sure about. 

These are the guideposts that help you get aligned and focused to make the best decisions possible. 

Here is Force4’s decision-making cheat sheet: 

  • Make a plan. 
  • Know what you want to accomplish. 
  • Make sure the plan has goals – an ultimate objective. 
  • Don’t confuse the tactics for the goals. 
  • Don’t let confusion or strong personalities sway you in the moment. Listen to advice, then “take the best and leave the rest.”  
  • In the face of confusion or uncertainty, it’s tempting to stick to a familiar tactic or process, even if it’s ineffectual or even becoming counterproductive.  
  • “No wasted experience:” Be willing to pivot if something goes awry 
  • Understand that a successful repivot depends on knowing what the end goal is, not just for the sake of “shaking things up.”  
  • So, remember the plan! 

Carolyn Hax, advice columnist for the Washington Post once wrote that the surest you can be about anything is 70% sure. With that breathing space, take another look at the fundamentals. Remember that your expertise and experience have led you to this point, and trust them. Ask your team for their input, and take note of suggestions that help you get to the goal. If the same old processes haven’t served you, re-evaluate and adjust. And then move forward with confidence and clarity. 

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