Several tools exist to help you evaluate the alternatives and lead you to your decision. A simple grid analysis can be used to lay out the alternatives and their benefits and consequences. A more complex grid can include weights for the factors you identify in the table. Several other decision tools exist: Decision trees; pareto analysis; the “80/20” rule — used for a selection of a limited number of tasks that produce significant overall effect using the pareto principle that a large majority of problems (80%) are produced by a few key causes (20%); paired comparison analysis; and many others.
Once you have made a decision, an important element to the success of that decision is the commitment to follow through and make the decision happen and accomplish the objective. If commitment is lacking, even a well-reasoned, good decision can have poor results. Many decisions likely impact a variety of people in your business. Improving decision making and building a strong commitment involves including the right people in the appropriate discussions during your decision-making process.
Evaluating the results of your decision is also an important element of your decision making. You must do this in order to learn from and about your decision making. Sharpening your skills involves taking the time to assess them first. Some simple questions to ask in your evaluation process are: Was the outcome as expected? If not, then why not? If the outcome was as expected, then ask why you were able to predict that outcome — what did you do well during the decision-making process?
Challenges in decision-making
Biases: It is extremely challenging for humans to be entirely objective in every decision. Human bias may arise from pure self-interest, self-attachments to business units or people, past experiences, and prejudgment in which you decide something early and stay with that judgment and decision regardless. Try to avoid these biases by first recognizing when they potentially exist. Include others in the decision or in your thought process to help offset your biases and to provide honest feedback on your thoughts.
Procrastination: At some point, we all put off making decisions. Some decisions do take time and a thorough analysis. But, delaying the process can create additional problems, make the decision more difficult, or cause good opportunities to be missed. Procrastination or delays in decision making often arise either due to fear of making a wrong decision, due to putting out other smaller fires or due to dread of bringing to the forefront other major issues that will also need to be dealt with. If you think about it, you can recognize why you are procrastinating on a decision. Be honest with yourself, address the reason for delay, and then move forward with the primary issue.
Short-sightedness: Every day can bring a new list of immediate problems requiring near-immediate attention. These short-term activities can consume your time, probibiting you from focusing on larger long-term issues. Short-sightedness may also arise if you do not think far enough ahead in the decisions you are making and you do not consider any long-term consequences associated with these short-term problems. Making an effort to consider the potential consequences of a decision or including another person in the decision, especially someone who is good at longer-term thinking, can help you deal with these challenges.
Take home message
Making good decisions is important to you as a feed and grain manager. Some in-the-moment decisions might be dealt with using lower-level brain systems and involving emotions. Other more tactical or strategic decisions are better served through use of higher-level brain systems and more far-sighted, rational or deductive decision methods.
How would you score your decision making? We all can identify at least a few opportunities for skill enhancement. In our experience, many sub-par decisions result because one or more of the elements in the deductive decision process were not given enough attention. Take some time and evaluate some of your past decisions, the process and elements you used, and the outcomes. Use the results of your analysis to help you sharpen your decision making.
If you want to explore more about decision-making, including decision analysis tools, then two good resources are: Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions by Gary Klein and www.mindtools.com. While not an endorsement of their services, the mindtools website provides and explains over 40 tools that can be used to help you make decisions. Good luck and be decisive!