I’ve ranted about best practices many times before. Nonetheless, it is human nature to want there to be a right answer, to know that we are doing the right thing and to believe that the actions we take are defensible. Normal to want, impossible to get. The reality is that we live in a complex and nuanced world, and we need varied ways of making sense of it. We need effective ways to evaluate our options, understand the implications and assess whether we are making the best decision at the time. That’s where models come in.
You’ve decided upon your stated direction. You have committed to the attainment of one or two strategic priorities that will most move you forward. And then an opportunity presents itself; a door opens with an interesting and exciting opportunity you didn’t know existed. Is this opportunity a meaningful new option or merely a shiny new distraction? These are the choices that we have to make as we navigate towards the future we most value.
Over a period of weeks, I’ve been deconstructing and exploring how we meet and make strategic decisions. Given our current pandemic reality, strategic retreats are neither possible nor desirable. My question was how they can be replicated online, and—for extra bonus points—whether it was possible for those meetings to be more effective than what we are more traditionally used to. I was cautiously optimistic at the outset. I’m now quite confident that it is actually possible.
We like to think of deciding as an act of deliberate intent. In actual fact, decisions often simply happen. They emerge and evolve, or arrive at a point where they are simply accepted. All appearances to the contrary, it can be difficult to point to when a decision was actually made, how it was arrived at and by whom. This doesn’t have to be the case. There are ways to improve not just the quality of decisions, but also clarity in the decision making process.
Getting to good decisions is a product of identifying good options. And while groups will tell you that they value good decisions, their behaviour often exhibits a rush towards making fast decisions. There are several cognitive biases that influence this, and these in turn contribute to some significant barriers in generating good options. Doing that requires thinking about accordions and how they work.
To make good decisions we require good information. The challenge is that in many instances we make decisions with incomplete and imperfect information, even where further insight was possible. Groups whose diversity should enable differences in perspective and viewpoint often gravitate to the lowest common denominator. Pressure to get to the decision and pulls on attention mean that relevant information doesn’t get the attention or consideration that it should. It doesn’t have to be this way; with a little bit of thought and planning, better process is possible and other perspectives become practical.