Think before you Act – Principles of ‘Decisions making’.

Posted by Venu Payyanur     Category: Practical Management

We make hundreds decisions every day. Decision making is a process of making choices with the available options and information. Whether they are routine in nature or those impact ours and others life, making good decisions takes time, practice and conscious thought. Your knowledge and ability to make sound judgment pays a vital role in good decisions.  It is critically important that we evaluate all options before taking actions on important matters in life. I usually follow the 4Dprinciple, Do, Delay, Delegate or Dump, but the crux is in deciding which one to do, delay or delegate. Certain decisions in life or business are good to delay particularly in a fast changing environment. Here is a story from Mahabharata.

Chirakari is the son of Gautama Maharishi. He used to think deeply before doing any deed and so he earned the name Chirakari. Once when Gautama was away from the ashram Indra came there as a guest. Considering it as her duty to treat a guest of her husband properly during his absence Ahalya received him well and gave him fruit to ease his tiredness. Indra went back. Gautama on knowing this on his return suspected the chastity of his wife and calling his son Chirakari to his side asked him to cut off her head. After giving the order Gautama went to the forests.

Chirakari had a peculiar nature. He will ponder over things deeply before taking any action. He knew he must obey the orders of his father but killing one’s own mother was a greater sin than disobeying a father. In obedience to his father’s order Chirakari came before his mother, weapon in hand. He did not kill her immediately but pondered over the consequences of the deed. How shall I obey the command of my Father and Guru and yet how avoid slaying my mother? How shall I avoid sinking, like a wicked person, into sin in this situation in which contradictory obligations are dragging me into opposite directions? Matricide is a great sin, he mused, and then again, who would be there to look after father if mother died.  Weighing the merits and demerits of the act Chirakari sat thinking without doing anything.

Gautama when he reached the forest thought again about Ahalya and her crime. After all what has she done? A guest came to the ashram and as duty-bound she welcomed him. It was indeed a great sin to have killed her by her own son. Immersed in thoughts of this kind, sad and repentant, Gautama returned to the ashram to find Chirakari sitting silently deeply engrossed in thoughts. On seeing his father Chirakari was perplexed and he explained to his father about the good and bad effects of his order. Gautama was pleased to see his wife alive and blessed Chirakari with long life. He also made these comments “One that reflects long before he acts is certainly possessed of great intelligence. Such a man never offends in respect of any act.  Though the clamor of being an idle man may stick to him or may be regarded as a foolish person, it is only by those who lack better understanding and foresight of situations and life.

Decision Making Process

Generally in a business environment all our decisions are guided and governed by objectives and goals set to be achieved in a given time frame. There are many different methods of decision making, but planning and preparations are essential to ensure that you make the right decisions most of the time.

  • Define the problem – correct diagnosis of the problem is essential to identify and administer the perfect solution. If diagnosis is wrong, treatment goes awry and the patient can die. Identifying the cause of the problem can also help us choose the right solution easily.
  • Develop the alternatives – decision making is choosing between alternatives and therefore we should develop as many alternatives as possible. Brain storming is a technique usually employed by organizations to get variety of options to choose from. Not doing anything is also a decision, provided you have developed and evaluated many alternatives and found this is the best option.
  • Evaluate the alternatives – There are many scientific methods employed to evaluate alternate decisions such as T-chart, PMI (plus, minus, interesting propagated by Edward De Bano), Buridan’s Ass, decision matrix, etc. Use the best and most suitable method for your particular situation. At the same time it is critically important that one should not fall in the trap of “paralysis by analysis”. As a leader your knowledge about the situation and potential impact of the decision should help to take decision in a time bound manner to avoid the pitfalls of delayed decisions when the real requirement was quick decision. 
  • Make and implement the decision. Once any decision is implemented it is also important that you constantly check the progress and make corrections on the way as required.

Where we are today is based on all those decisions that we have taken throughout our lives. Which school to study, what subject to specialize, which career to choose and whom to marry, etc., are all our decisions taken after careful considerations.  It is possible that all our decisions are not perfect, but what matters in this world where law of averages prevail, is that we make more good choices than bad. Louis Pasteur once said, “Chance favours the prepared mind.” Indeed, the prepared mind of an effective leader thinks carefully and searches constantly for the opportunity to learn from past successes and failures, and then improves the way he goes about making crucial choices in the future.

 

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