‘Just make a decision’ they say.

Yep!  Like it’s that easy.

I mean the decision making process is simple, right?

  1. You have a situation where you need to make a choice
  2. You analyse your options
  3. You make a choice
  4. You live with it

As a manager, it can feel like your reputation is on the line with every decision you make

What if you miss something in your analysis?  Or what if the analysis still doesn’t provide the obvious answer?  And the living with it part?  Yep, that’s the tough one.

But, according to Chip and Dan Heath in their excellent book ‘Decisive‘, there are four steps you can take to boost your chances of making the right decisions.

WRAP Decision Making Process

They call it the WRAP decision making process and it was devised because they realised that the four step process above wasn’t actually as straightforward as people think.  (Yay!  We’re not alone)

In fact, they believe there is a villain that afflicts each stage.

  1. You encounter a choice. But focusing too narrowly makes you miss options
  2. You analyse your options. But you unconsciously seek out information to support your initial preferences
  3. You make a choice. But short-term emotion will often tempt you to make the wrong one
  4. You live with it. But you’ll often be overconfident about how the future will unfold

The WRAP process helps you check in with where you may be going wrong

W – Widen Your Options
R – Reality Check Your Assumptions
A – Attain Distance Before Deciding
P – Prepare To Fail

1. Widen Your Options

  • Imagine a spotlight on the decision you had to make.  The light only covers a certain area so you may be missing options that are not immediately visible.  Focus on making the spotlight bigger.
  • Try to find more than two options.
  • If you hear yourself asking ‘whether or not’, you may be thinking too narrow.  (e.g “I don’t know ‘whether or not’ to promote Sarah to the team leader role”)   Research showed that ‘whether or not’ decisions failed 52% of time, whereas decisions with more than two options only failed 32%
  • Ask ‘how else could we do this? Is there a better way?’
  • The Vanishing Options Test: If you couldn’t choose your current options what would you do?

2. Reality Check Your Assumptions

  • Watch out for Confirmation Bias.  We unconsciously seek out information that supports our pre-existing preferences to justify a decision.  For example, we’ll eagerly read articles that tell us that drinking a glass of wine daily is good for us.  (Or is that just me?)
  • Assign people to be your devil’s advocate.  Their job is to disagree with the decision and voice their reasons why.  This will push you to consider other angles.
  • Your decision is not that special.  Others will have made a similar decision.  Seek out these people and get their input.  A word of caution – everyone has an opinion, listen hardest to the ones that have been there before you.

3. Attain Distance Before Deciding

  • Your short term emotions can impair your decision making process.  For example, your nervous how Sarah will react if you promote Katie instead of her.  To help you move out of the moment, use the 10 -10 – 10 method.  Think about your decision in different time frames. How will you feel about it in 10 minutes? 10 months? 10 years?
  • The more exposure to an idea you have, the more trustworthy it feels.  For example, if you are choosing a new supplier and one brand is more familiar to you than others (even if you know nothing about them), you may feel more at ease with deciding in their favour.
  • It is hard to move on from something you have invested time and money on.  If you have spent months working on a project and you have to make a go/no go decision it is difficult to not factor in all the time you have spent already to make this work.  To attain distance ask yourself ‘What would a new person to the company decide?’

4. Prepare To Be Wrong

No one can predict the future so it is really important to plan for what could go wrong.  A great way to do this is to conduct a pre-mortem.

Conducting a Pre Mortem

Six months have passed.  Your decision has proved to be the wrong one.  You are in a room with some trusted colleagues looking back at why it failed.

What do you think those reasons are?  By doing a pre-mortem, you can plan ahead for the reasons for failure by mitigating against them.

What would this look like if this failed?  What can you put in place now to stop that happening?

Confidence In Your Decision Making Process

Preparation is the key to confidence

Here’s the thing.  You will make some bad decisions.  They may be right at the time but so many things can happen, far out of your control, that can change the course of anything.

What I like about this process is that it will give you the confidence that you have made a considered choice.   When you can justify a decision, you will sleep better at night.

The critical thing is that you do have to make a decision.  So don’t spend too long going over everything.  Set yourself a deadline, work through the process and be confident in your decision. Then move on.

So why not try this out with a decision you need to make.