Eric Krueger

Making a Decision


4-minute read | Meta photo by DALL·E 3 "Making a Decision" | last updated 1 month, 3 weeks ago

So you need to make a decision? This may sound obvious; but, the first thing you should do is make sure it's your decision to make. If your answer is anything other than a resounding "Yes", you may just be blocked (i.e. - you want to accomplish something, but there's a problem preventing you from doing it, and that blockage is masquerading as a decision for you to make). If that's the case - see Unblocking 101.

Four Types of Decisions

If it is your decision, it will be one of the four types below. You should know which one, and if you don't - that becomes the decision.

  1. Command - You make the decision.
  2. Consult - You gather opinions, then make the decision (good for gathering opinions without bogging down the decision-making process).
  3. Vote - You take a vote, and the decision with the most votes wins (good when there are lots of good options, and everyone agrees to be bound by the vote).
  4. Consensus - You discuss until everyone comes to the same decision (risky / very time-consuming if misapplied, this should only be used with (1) high-stakes and complex issues or (2) issues where everyone absolutely must support the final choice).

You decide in the case of command and consult decisions. You orchestrate/call for the decision in the case of vote or consensus decisions (these are still your decisions as long as you're responsible/accountable for them).

Regardless of the type, if you're having trouble reaching a decision it boils down to one of two things; you either are missing some information or you just need to decide (Michael Loop explains this in further detail in his excellent blog post (from which this post is inspired and expands upon).

Possibility #1: There is Hidden Information

If you find yourself mentally paralyzed, it could be you're subconsciously aware that you're missing an essential aspect - your brain isn't letting you move forward until you uncover it. The solution is to do whatever activity you do that allows deep thinking.

This could be in the form of meditation (or similar activity where you severely limit distractions), or an activity that engages 10% of your brain, and leaves 90% for thinking (e.g. - a bike ride, a drive, or a walk). Nietzsche would prefer the latter:

Sit as little as possible; give no credence to any thought that was not born outdoors while one moved about freely - in which the muscles are not celebrating a feast, too: all prejudices come from the intestines. The sedentary life - as I have said once before - is the real sin against the holy spirit. - Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

These activities promote system two thinking and allow you to benefit from gap effects (where such space helps you process and synthesize learned information).

Possibility #2: You Just Need to Decide

You've done all the work, and now it's time to decide. There's no more information to be known, or that you can know right now. Remember the different types of decisions (command, consult, vote, consensus), and decide how to decide. Make sure that you socialize this so that you don't end up surprised by a situation where the basis for your decision is challenged.

Remember that credit belongs to the man in the arena and that while you are accountable for your decision, decision-making is the privilege of leadership.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt

Being accountable means “required or expected to justify actions and decisions.” To give account. Trust in yourself and your abilities - as long as you've done the work, and can reasonably justify your actions. You don't need to be right, you just need to be as well-informed as you reasonably can be. Know that the critics are sitting at a professional, comfortable distance away from the decision, and will forget it faster than you.

Decision Fatigue

A final point to consider: do you even need to decide? If you make many decisions each day consider the impact of decision fatigue. Decisions take effort, mental energy, and time. You only have so much of that to give in a day.

When it comes to low value-add, low impact, and marginal benefit decisions, if you have an opportunity to outsource that decision-making, you should. What Netflix show to watch? Let your partner choose. What clothes to wear? The one's at the top. Save your energy for the big stuff.


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