Drucker’s decision-making process

Almost everything in life essentially boils down to either making a choice or doing the damn thing. The challenge is that most of us either stay stuck at the cusp of doing it or making a choice.

Years ago, I bumped into Peter Drucker’s decision-making framework in HBR. It literally changed my life. For the good. It’s super-simple (you know how much I love simple things) but insanely challenging to apply, especially if you’re dealing with variables. And when people are involved, you can’t not have variables.

I use a sporadic version of this almost on every other day at the workplace and even personally.

1. Classifying the problem. Is it generic? Is it exceptional and unique? Or is it the first manifestation of a new genus for which a rule has yet to be developed?

2. Defining the problem. What are we dealing with?

3. Specifying the answer to the problem. What are the “boundary conditions”?

4. Deciding what is “right,” rather than what is acceptable, in order to meet the boundary conditions. What will fully satisfy the specifications before attention is given to the compromises, adaptations, and concessions needed to make the decision acceptable?

5. Building into the decision the action to carry it out. What does the action commitment have to be? Who has to know about it?

6. Testing the validity and effectiveness of the decision against the actual course of events. How is the decision being carried out? Are the assumptions on which it is based appropriate or obsolete?

The Effective Decision, HBR.org

And while we’re discussing decisions, here’s a great insight I learned from James Clear I absolutely loved!

No is a decision. Yes is a responsibility. When you say no, you are only saying no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other option. One of my key themes in 2019 is to think carefully about what I say yes to and make sure I protect my time.

James Clear, 2018 Annual Review

I hope that’ll help you see things (and decide) with a little more perspective. Making decisions isn’t easy and is a major timesuck. It taxes your brain and can sometimes be even counter-productive! Which is why I don’t spend a lot of time making a decision — I just go for the kill and own my mistakes. Saves a lot of time and gives me just enough information to be absolutely sure why the chosen option will either work or not.

And yes, sometimes those mistakes are expensive. Literally. But I would rather take a risk than waste my time to mull over the available choices, only to be proven wrong again. You can’t ever eliminate risks completely. Only minimize them.

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