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Decision Making Skills Start Here!

How to make good decisions, with James Manktelow & Amy Carlson. All of us have to make decisions every day. Some decisions are relatively straightforward and simple: Is this report ready to send to my boss now? Others are quite complex: Which of these candidates should I select for the job? Simple decisions usually need a simple decision-making process. But difficult decisions typically involve issues like these: Uncertainty - Many facts may not be known. Complexity - You have to consider many interrelated factors. High-risk consequences - The impact of the decision may be significant. Alternatives - Each has its own set of uncertainties and consequences. Interpersonal issues - It can be difficult to predict how other people will react. With these difficulties in mind, the best way to make a complex decision is to use an effective process. Clear processes usually lead to consistent, high-quality results, and they can improve the quality of almost everything we do. In this article, we outline a process that will help improve the quality of your decisions. A Systematic Approach to Decision Making A logical and systematic decision-making process helps you address the critical elements that result in a good decision. By taking an organized approach, you're less likely to miss important factors, and you can build on the approach to make your decisions better and better. There are six steps to making an effective decision: 1. Create a constructive environment. 2. Generate good alternatives. 3. Explore these alternatives. 4. Choose the best alternative. 5. Check your decision. 6. Communicate your decision, and take action. Here are the steps in detail: Step 1: Create a constructive environment To create a constructive environment for successful decision making, make sure you do the following: Establish the objective - Define what you want to achieve. Agree on the process - Know how the final decision will be made, including whether it will be an individual or a team-based decision. The Vroom-Yetton-Jago Model is a great tool for determining the most appropriate way of making the decision. Involve the right people - Stakeholder Analysis is important in making an effective decision, and you'll want to ensure that you've consulted stakeholders appropriately even if you're making an individual decision. Where a group process is appropriate, the

decision-making group - typically a team of five to seven people - should have a good representation of stakeholders. Allow opinions to be heard - Encourage participants to contribute to the discussions, debates, and analysis without any fear of rejection from the group. This is one of the best ways to avoid groupthink. The Stepladder Techniqueis a useful method for gradually introducing more and more people to the group discussion, and making sure everyone is heard. Also, recognize that the objective is to make the best decision under the circumstances: it's not a game in which people are competing to have their own preferred alternatives adopted. Make sure you're asking the right question - Ask yourself whether this is really the true issue. The 5 Whys technique is a classic tool that helps you identify the real underlying problem that you face. Use creativity tools from the start - The basis of creativity is thinking from a different perspective. Do this when you first set out the problem, and then continue it while generating alternatives. Our article Generating New Ideas will help you create new connections in your mind, break old thought patterns, and consider new perspectives. Step 2: Generate Good Alternatives This step is still critical to making an effective decision. The more good options you consider, the more comprehensive your final decision will be. When you generate alternatives, you force yourself to dig deeper, and look at the problem from different angles. If you use the mindset there must be other solutions out there,' you're more likely to make the best decision possible. If you don't have reasonable alternatives, then there's really not much of a decision to make! Here's a summary of some of the key tools and techniques to help you and your team develop good alternatives. Generating Ideas Brainstorming is probably the most popular method of generating ideas. Another approach, Reverse Brainstorming, works similarly. However, it starts by asking people to brainstorm how to achieve the opposite outcome from the one wanted, and then reversing these actions. The Charette Procedure is a systematic process for gathering and developing ideas from very many stakeholders. Use the Crawford Slip Writing Technique to generate ideas from a large number of people. This is an extremely effective way to make sure that everyone's ideas are heard and given equal weight, irrespective of the person's position or power within the organization. Considering Different Perspectives

The Reframing Matrix uses 4 Ps (product, planning, potential, and people) as the basis for gathering different perspectives. You can also ask outsiders to join the discussion, or ask existing participants to adopt different functional perspectives (for example, have a marketing person speak from the viewpoint of a financial manager). If you have very few options, or an unsatisfactory alternative, use aConcept Fan to take a step back from the problem, and approach it from a wider

perspective. This often helps when the people involved in the decision are too close to the problem. Appreciative Inquiry forces you to look at the problem based on what's going right,' rather than what's going wrong.' Organizing Ideas This is especially helpful when you have a large number of ideas. Sometimes separate ideas can be combined into one comprehensive alternative.

Use Affinity Diagrams to organize ideas into common themes and groupings. Step 3: Explore the Alternatives When you're satisfied that you have a good selection of realistic alternatives, then you'll need to evaluate the feasibility, risks, and implications of each choice. Here, we discuss some of the most popular and effective analytical tools. Risk In decision making, there's usually some degree of uncertainty, which inevitably leads to risk. By evaluating the risk involved with various options, you can determine whether the risk is manageable.

Risk Analysis helps you look at risks objectively. It uses a structured approach for assessing threats, and for evaluating the probability of events occurring and what they might cost to manage. Implications Another way to look at your options is by considering the potential consequences of each. Six Thinking Hats helps you evaluate the consequences of a decision by looking at the alternatives from six different perspectives. Impact Analysis is a useful technique for brainstorming the unexpected' consequences that may arise from a decision. Validation Determine if resources are adequate, if the solution matches your objectives, and if the decision is likely to work in the long term.

Starbursting helps you think about the questions you should ask to evaluate an alternative properly. To assess pros and cons of each option, use Force Field Analysis, or use the Plus-Minus-Interesting approach. Cost-Benefit Analysis looks at the financial feasibility of an alternative. Our Bite-Sized Training session on Project Evaluation and Financial Forecasting helps you evaluate each alternative using the most popular financial evaluation techniques. Step 4: Choose the Best Alternative After you have evaluated the alternatives, the next step is to choose between them. The choice may be obvious. However, if it isn't, these tools will help:

Grid Analysis, also known as a decision matrix, is a key tool for this type of evaluation. It's invaluable because it helps you bring disparate factors into your decision-making process in a reliable and rigorous way. Use Paired Comparison Analysis to determine the relative importance of various factors. This helps you compare unlike factors, and decide which ones should carry the most weight in your decision. Decision Trees are also useful in choosing between options. These help you lay out the different options open to you, and bring the likelihood of project success or failure into the decision making process.

For group decisions, there are some excellent evaluation methods available. When decision criteria are subjective and it's critical that you gain consensus, you can use techniques like Nominal Group Technique and Multi-Voting. These methods help a group agree on priorities, for example, so that they can assign resources and funds. The Delphi Technique uses multiple cycles of anonymous written discussion and argument, managed by a facilitator. Participants in the process do not meet, and sometimes they don't even know who else is involved. The facilitator controls the process, and manages the flow and organization of information. This is useful where you need to bring the opinions of many different experts into the decision-making process. It's particularly useful where some of these experts don't get on! Step 5: Check Your Decision With all of the effort and hard work that goes into evaluating alternatives, and deciding the best way forward, it's easy to forget to sense check' your decisions. This is where you look at the decision you're about to make dispassionately, to make sure that your process has been thorough, and to ensure that common errors haven't crept into the decision-making process. After all, we can all now see the catastrophic consequences that over-confidence, groupthink, and other decision-making errors have wrought on the world economy. The first part of this is an intuitive step, which involves quietly and methodically testing the assumptions and the decisions you've made against your own experience, and thoroughly reviewing and exploring any doubts you might have. A second part involves using a technique like Blindspot Analysis to review whether common decision-making problems like over-confidence, escalating commitment, orgroupthink may have undermined the decision-making process. A third part involves using a technique like the Ladder of Inference to check through the logical structure of the decision with a view to ensuring that a well-founded and consistent decision emerges at the end of the decision-making process. Step 6: Communicate Your Decision, and Move to Action! Once you've made your decision, it's important to explain it to those affected by it, and involved in implementing it. Talk about why you chose the alternative you did. The more information you provide about risks and projected benefits, the more likely people are to support the decision. And with respect to implementation of your decision, our articles on Project Management and Change Management will help you get this implementation off to a good start!

Park Life No need for goal line technology


January 20, 2012 | ONLINE ONLY

Sepp Blatter (right) has long been an opponent of goal line technology, Image: World Economic Forum via flickr Creative Commons

Of all the sticks used to beat Sepp Blatter with, including allegations of corruption, cronyism and downright incompetence, both the least justifiable and the most tiresomely predictable is FIFAs failure to adopt goal line technology. Proponents for change see it as an essentially unarguable point, an unavoidable next step on the way to eradicating the influence of human error over a matchs outcome. Yet if footballs administrators were to make such a concession, it would serve only to undermine rather than aid the officials whose benefit it is purportedly for. After each round of fixtures we are currently treated to the same line-up of familiar managerial faces either railing against unjust decisions or professing relief over getting that little bit of luck they deserve, depending upon which way the result has gone. A managers appraisal of the referees performance has never knowingly been noted for its sense of proportion, perspective or

impartiality, but in a sporting culture where players must be shielded from criticism at all costs, they are forever drawing attention to refereeing errors in order to explain away their own teams shortcomings. Complaints against the inconsistency of officials decision-making, especially concerning the punishment meted out for two-footed tackles, has become a staple source of manufactured outrage and controversy in recent weeks, especially since Vincent Kompanys red card in the Manchester derby. Yet this highly subjective area of the game, which is inevitably prey to personal interpretation, could become the next target for video referrals should they be introduced to deal with supposedly more clear-cut cases like whether a goal should be given or not. If weve survived just fine without goal line technology up until this point, why is its introduction any more critical now? This can be attributed to a misplaced belief that the occasional mistake is somehow of greater consequence since football has become the endlessly over-analyzed, financially-bloated behemoth it now is. The mantra for footballs new seriousness seems to be much like that of the recent Sky Bet advertisement, which depressingly asserted that the result matters more when theres money on it. The suggestion that with footballs enhanced status there is now too much money at stake for the occasional wrong call, and that technology should be brought in to deal with these tragic imperfections, is a perfect example of approaching an issue the wrong way round. To me the idea that a goal line decision could matter so much signals that the money involved is the problem, rather than the means of making such a decision, and that we should tackle the warped mentality responsible for deeming any football result to be of such earth-shattering importance to begin with. Instead, the introduction of technology would merely feed into footballs sense of its own significance, while irritation over offsides or penalty decisions, which occur far more often than any qualms over whether the ball

has crossed the line, would continue unabated until they too became the subject of in-game video analysis. The problem is only exacerbated by the medias incessant courting of controversy and the overbearing demands of pundits and fans in search of an unattainable perfection. That technology is yet to encroach on the game of football should be a source of pride, proving that for all the upheaval it has undergone it remains fundamentally the same sport from grass roots level to the very top. This state of affairs would only be threatened by the arrival of prohibitively expensive technology, widening the gulf between the haves and the havenots of league football even further, so that games in the Premiership would, quite literally, take place on a different playing field altogether.

Finding their way to fast track

Young executives Matthew Zubiller, Kori Reed and Pam Rogers Klyn found ways to turbocharge their careers and put themselves on a fast track to senior management.

McKesson Corporation Matthew Zubiller of McKesson Health Solutions devised a high-tech tool to help healthcare providers make care decisions. Their trick? Each took a novel approach that resulted in unexpected benefits for their employersand new, prominent roles for themselves. Mr. Zubiller started a high-tech health-care business for McKesson Corp. Ms. Reed persuaded ConAgra Foods Inc. to mount a companywide attack on U.S. child hunger. Ms. Klyn shaved spending quicker than expected at Whirlpool Corp. by linking cost cuts to performance reviews for 6,600 North American staffers. They overcame multiple challenges. They secured funding, won support from the skeptical top brass and practiced diplomatic persistence. The trio's experiences offer handy guideposts to ambitious managers everywhere. "Solving thorny business problems creatively helps rising stars get on the screen of upper management and provides the kind of leadership development experience they need to advance," observes Jeffrey Cohn, a leadership adviser for chief executives. At the same time, "many companies now realize they will be left behind fast-moving competitors unless they encourage their rising stars to pursue innovative ideas," adds

Mr. Cohn, author of "Why are We Bad at Picking Good Leaders?" More than half of 50 big-business CEOs he recently interviewed for his next book reported they are making steps to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship within their managerial ranks. Mr. Zubiller believes he succeeded partly because he realized the best new idea "aligns with the core of the business." Before the former entrepreneur joined McKesson in 2005 as a corporate-strategy manager, the major U.S. pharmaceuticals distributor didn't invest in internal start-ups. But McKesson did have a health-care information-technology unit. That made it easier for Mr. Zubiller to pitch his boss on his business concept: using high-tech tools so doctors, laboratories and insurers could make better care and reimbursement decisions about genetic testing. Though Mr. Zubiller says certain colleagues called him a rogue for pursuing a risky venture, he soon received several hundred thousand dollars, built a prototype and signed up five pilot customers.

ConAgra Foods Kori Reed, shown here giving a presentation at a No Kid Hungry event, became an expert in child hunger to help focus ConAgra's philanthropic activities.

Mr. Zubiller then assembled a "shadow board" of 10 senior McKesson executives. "We needed to be able to make sure we could get (additional) funding,'' he explains. These influential advisers also suggested trade-offs "when conflicts arose with other existing business lines,'' he says. Assisted by his shadow board, Mr. Zubiller obtained $5 million for Advanced Diagnostics Management, a small unit launched and led by the newly-minted assistant vice president in 2007. He currently is a 36-year-old VP, overseeing an expanded and renamed business with about 250 staffers. Ms. Reed, a public relations manager, took charge of ConAgra's corporate foundation in 2006. She made herself a child-hunger expert in order to pursue an innovative approach. Her anti-hunger push led the big packaged-foods producer last spring to name her vice president of cause and foundation, a new position she had proposed to oversee philanthropy, volunteerism and cause marketing, which pairs a product or brand with a social mission. Because ConAgra has an anti-hunger champion, "we can leverage (the issue) for business and social impact," the 42-year-old executive notes. Ms. Reed devised equally clever gambits to gain key internal allies. She persuadedAndre Hawaux, president of the $8 billion consumer foods unit, to join an anti-hunger group's advisory council in late 2010. Mr. Hawaux says the experience led him to conclude "that having a person dedicated to our long-term strategy for fighting child hunger would be a vital part of making significant progress.'' Ms. Reed says she recognized that ConAgra should "connect the dots on the various anti-hunger efforts" while organizing Child Hunger Ends Here, a corporate causemarketing campaign. She sold the drive to ConAgra marketers by learning "to translate my 'anti-hunger' language into marketing language,'' she recalls. Ms. Klyn practiced deft diplomacy to expand Whirlpool's cost-control methods, which had focused on big-ticket items at the large appliance maker. The productdevelopment manager disbanded a cross-functional cost control team after she took charge of that North American initiative in 2008. She says she returned team members to their regular jobs because she wanted to improve individual accountability and make cost-cutting a way of doing business.

But most Whirlpool employees felt unsure about how to help, a survey found. "Let's get the masses involved,'' she told higher-ups, citing the poll. She told company bosses that all the region's white-collar staffers, from administrative employees on up, should have a cost-savings goal built into their yearly objectives. CEO Jeff Fettig blessed her approachand took it one step further. He decided to reduce bonuses of staffers who missed their cost goals.

Ted Leemaster/Whirlpool Corporat Pam Klyn, general manager for Whirlpool Corporation's cooking products in North America, made cost-cutting a goal for thousands of the company's white-collar workers. Ms. Klyn shrewdly shared the limelight with Whirlpool's leader. "I give him a ton of credit," she says, adding that the link to employee bonus pay "exceeded my wildest dreams.'' Through an online course she developed and similar efforts, Ms. Klyn taught co-workers the importance of small-scale moves, including turning off lights and carpooling. The North American unit already had exceeded its full-year cost savings target of $698 million by September 2009, when Ms. Klyn advanced to general manager of its dishwasher business. The region saved $854 million that year.

The 41-year-old executive now runs the North American cooking business, whose annual revenue is nearly double that of the dishwasher one. Ms. Klyn sees clear lessons from her trajectory for rising stars with innovative ideas. 'Be confident in your approach,'' she recommends. "Look your senior leaders in the eye and say, 'Here's my plan, and here's why it will work.' "