How to Make a Decision in the Toughest Situations?

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Chloe Xu
Director, Australia

How to Make a Decision in the Toughest Situations?

It is easy to be paralyzed for decision makers when they are forced to make a decision in very tough situations, especially in those where they have understood all the facts and done all the analysis, but still cannot figure out what to do. Badaracco (2016) encourages managers to use 5 practical questions to tackle very tough decisions:
  1. WHAT ARE THE NET, NET CONSEQUENCES of all my options? Open your mind and put aside the initial assumption about what should be done, assemble a panel of trusted advisers and experts, and consider together with them every course of available actions and their consequences in the real-world, thoroughly and analytically. Meanwhile, it could be very useful to have a second pair of eyes to question your thinking and preventing you from rushing to conclusions or falling into the trap of group-thinking.
  2. WHAT ARE MY CORE OBLIGATIONS? Step out of the comfort zone, put yourself in the shoes of all stakeholder groups, especially the most disadvantaged ones, and identify your biases and blind spots. The best way of doing that is speaking directly to the people who will be affected by your decision, or ask someone to role-play the stakeholders or outsiders as persuasively as possible.
  3. WHAT WILL WORK IN THE WORLD AS IT IS? After considering the consequences and duties, now you need to think about practicalities which of your possible solutions to the problem is most likely to work? To answer this question, managers can do a stakeholder analysis and evaluation to understand the power or force of each party, and then choose out the most resilient solution based on the analysis.
  4. WHO ARE WE? This question requires managers to step back and think about the decision they made from lens of its relationships with and values for the team, the organization, and a broader community. Just imagine you are writing a paragraph in your organization's history, which solution you might choose could best reflect what your organization stands for?
  5. CAN I LIVE WITH MY DECISION? Good managers commit to, act on, and live with the consequences of their choice. So the decision you made must reflect what you really care about as a manager and a human being. Writing down your decision and the reasons for it allows you to think more clearly over it.
Making tough decisions is the responsibility that managers cannot escape from. When you have to make a sensible decision in a tough situation, your job isn't finding solutions; it's creating them with your judgment.

⇒ Do you have any further particular idea on having better judgment in tough situations?

Source: Badaracco, J. (2016). How to Tackle Your Toughest Decisions. Harvard Business Review, 94 (September), pp.103 - 107.

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