Published: May 6, 2011
Jennifer Selby Long, Selby Group
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A Checklist for Better Decision-Making

playing the cardsWhile there are many challenges involved in making a decision, one that is often overlooked is naturally occurring bias, which is built into our DNA. There is no such thing as a 100% objective leader or leadership team. It’s a complete myth and an unachievable goal. A more pragmatic strategy is to make a conscious effort to bring forward some of those blind spots during the problem-solving process so that they get reasonable consideration. Translation: involve people who approach problems completely differently or use a cheat sheet or better yet, do both.

Research has shown that even when we are sure we’re making decisions in a well-rounded manner, we’re not. I’ve verified this through my own testing with clients, which has always been a lively and informative activity.

I set a timer for 30 minutes and the team gets down to work – using a real decision they have to make, not a case study. Digging back into my graduate school research days, I observe their behavior and track minute-by-minute which mental function is being used in the discussion. We then look at the correlation between the time spent using each mental function and the mental functions this team prefers, as indicated in their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® results.

Guess what we see? Sure enough, the 30 minutes generally breaks down into 14 minutes using their collective favorite mental function, nine minutes using their second favorite mental function, five minutes using their third favorite function, and only two lousy little minutes using their least favorite mental function. Two minutes! Practically nothing.

Yet when I ask how long they thought they spent using their least favorite function, they say that it seemed like they spent forever on it and that it consumed a great deal of time. Their perception and measured reality were out of alignment because of naturally occurring biases.

This is why it’s so advantageous to bring a diverse group of people to the table when making an important decision.  Even if they are not all responsible for the ultimate task of making the final decision, their involvement in the analysis can broaden your thinking and cover some of the blind spots that you or your team may have built into your own DNA.

My detailed cheat sheets are reserved for clients. However, for a highly abbreviated version, I cannot improve on the summary of Isabel Briggs Myers’ writing on problem-solving created by Paula Storm and Susann deVries of Eastern Michigan University (http://www.mlaforum.org/volumeV/issue2/article3.html).

They summarized:

“Problem solving involves four steps:

Gather the Facts- use Sensing to look at the details of the problem at hand
Brainstorm Possibilities- use iNtuition to develop possible causes and solutions to the problem
Analyze Objectivity- use Thinking to consider the cause and effect of each solution to the problem
Weigh the Impact- use Feeling to consider how the people involved in the problem will be affected by the suggested solutions”

Regardless of what you use as your cheat sheet, be sure to put it where you will see it. This way, you’ll always be reminded to ask if you’ve given reasonable effort to each of the four mental functions before making your decision.



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