April 24, 2011

The RDM PMA and occurring thoughts

The last lines and words about Decision-making and I made the decision to write my thoughts all at once, while having made bullet points when I was writing the PMA.

At the beginning I must say I was not really convinced by this module but finally I must say I took a lot out of it and it was worth putting a lot of effort in it. Following I will list all my thoughts I had especially during the PMA:

First I was wondering what may happen if you have made a decision, it might be a very robust one, having used several tools and techniques to avoid bias and groupthink, but after a while you find out that it was the wrong decision or not the best one. What is the next step. Should you stick to your decision even if it is not the optimum, should you change immediately? Of course once more it depends on the situation the decision itself and finally how wrong you decided, but I guess it is a never-ending story. When the mistake points out I guess it is the best to just go again through a decision-making process, analyse the current situation under consideration that the previous decision was wrong and based on the new findings come up with an even better solution.

Something what pointed out, especially during the module Management of Change (MoC) is that time and resources play a significant role in the robustness of your decision. Of course we want to decide for the best solution possible, which is according to several authors the rational decision-making, but there is the term called “bounded rationality”, which hampers us to do so. Responsible are as already mentioned time and resources. In MoC both were scarce and thus could be seen in the decisions, which were made. The simulation let several people running on the edge of their capabilities and therefore several decisions were made which had a very dramatic impact. There was no time at all to sit down and think about the decision, draw decision trees or make a nice Plus-Minus-Interesting table. I had the role as Sales Manager and thus had to decide within seconds, whereat the decision were not as robust as we learned it in RDM. Of course this simulation was an extreme, but showed again the importance of bethinking and breath through and think seriously about the decision. That should be done even if the stress and pressure is enormous. At the end some seconds, minutes or hours, maybe days can decide about death or life.

Another scenario occurred, during writing the PMA, which is also related to time pressure. Being not 100% sure about the question I wanted to ask the tutor something about it but he was not available in his office, so that I dropped him an email. In this case I was lucky enough and in a record-breaking time, I was just getting a new coffee, I got my response. So far so good for me in this situation, but afterwards I was wondering of how to handle this without the luck. Just thinking about making a decision, but to make it a proper one you just need a last validation. Now it is possible that it is uncertain when you will get your answer. Shall you just stop working on that problem or should you carry on to the best of knowledge. This becomes more interesting if you are again under time pressure and you actually made up your plan you want to follow. I know I repeat myself here, but it depends on the problem and impact of the decision. However it might be worth to carry out a risk analysis to figure out on which level of risk you are running.

During my research for the PMA I came across the statement that making good decisions is learnable. But is it?? The same question arises with regard to leadership, where I for myself did not get an answer yet, while showing a tendency to yes it can be learned, not within a few weeks but it can be developed over years. But how does it look with regard to decision making?? Do we have it in us?? Having gone through about 100h decision-making, which is actually not the most, I think yes it is learnable. Sure some have more talent or a better gut feeling but with regard to all this research in this area with all its tools and techniques in my eyes there is a good opportunity to learn it. At least it can have a significant improvement on the ability to make decisions.

Having written the conclusion another question arose. To which extend a decision is robust and solid? At what point does confusion, overwhelming and redundancy starts? Some authors argue that the more tools used the more robust is the decision. But is it really smart to do that is there maybe a point where it should be stopped? These thoughts actually can really end in a vicious circle, because actually one answer could be to use one of the decision tools in order to get an answer to that question, because this is again dependent on the situation. Pareto could deliver the answer by identifying which vital few decision-supporting tools provide the biggest contribution and thus the decision can be made as efficient as possible. But this will take some time as well, because every tool needs to be evaluated to the given situation and decision which has to be made. So very fast this can end up in a huge effort. Another idea could be to have kind of a characteristic sheet, like the one provided by our tutor, so that simple questions give guidance when to use which tool. However I see this approach a bit to static and finally people are running the risk to use too many tools while just relying on this list. Another issue is a narrowed view on decision-making tools. It is hard to create a total complete list and therefore suitable tools are not considered in the portfolio during making a decision.

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Hi, Jan. Great Post. “Responsible are as already mentioned time and resources”, oh, great idea. I also had MOC elective module, but you have a deeper understanding about that simulations.

    24 Apr 2011, 09:41

  2. Heyy Jan,
    Regarding the point you make about decision making being learnable, I’d rather say improving robustness in decision-making in learnable. Through the module, the major learning was how poor human brain is in detecting certain mistakes it makes and certain aspects it overlooks unknowingly. If nothing else, once we have the knowledge of how human psychology lacks in certain ways, at first (maybe the stage we all are in now) having had the knowledge of such deficiencies, we try to deliberately check them by being critical, then at a later stage, this criticality will become more of our style of decision making; it’ll become more inherent.

    28 Apr 2011, 12:16

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