How often do you work on your decision making process?

Today is March 10 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you work on your decision making process? Those that navigate the chaos often have multiple, simultaneous, and competing requests for their attention.

Thanks to the advent of technological advancements over the last three decades, there are now more choices for almost everything in life. As David Brooks wrote in The New York Times “We can choose between a broader array of foods, media sources, lifestyles and identities. We have more freedom to live out our own sexual identities and more religious and nonreligious options to express our spiritual natures.”

While new choices present exciting opportunities, the explosion of choice has also challenged the ability to make decisions. The research suggests that the explosion of choice does not always provide a positive experience. For example, in their book Decisive, authors Chip and Dan Heath point out that 83 percent of corporate mergers and acquisitions do not increase shareholder value, 40 percent of senior hires do not last 18 months in their new position, and 44 percent of lawyers would recommend that a young person not follow them into the law.

As Brooks noted “It’s becoming incredibly important to learn to decide well, to develop the techniques of self-distancing to counteract the flaws in our own mental machinery.” One person who developed an efficient decision making model was former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In a 1954 speech to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches Eisenhower said: "I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent." Often referred to as the ‘Eisenhower Principle’ on organizing workload and priorities this decision making process involves a 2x2 grid consisting of four categories:

· Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately) DO IT

· Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later) DEFER IT

· Urgent, but not important (tasks delegated to someone else) DELEGATE IT

· Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate) DELETE IT

Also known as the 4 D approach to decision making: do it, defer it, delegate it, or delete it, Eisenhower’s approach can help one understand that great time management means being effective as well as efficient. It is important on both the personal and professional levels to prioritize spending time on those tasks that fall into the important and urgent categories.

Understanding the distinction between issues, tasks, and problems empowers the manager to be much more agile and respond appropriately. Without a decision making process or model, it is virtually impossible for the manager to distinguish between what is important and/or urgent so therefore every single issue is both important and urgent; a woefully inefficient and ineffective way to manage.

When we know which activities are important and which are urgent, we can overcome the natural tendency to focus on unimportant urgent activities, so that we can clear enough time to do what's essential for our success. This is the way we move from ‘firefighting’ into a position where we can grow our businesses and our careers.

How often do you work on your decision making process? Bruce Lee observed “It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” An efficient decision making model can help you with your daily decrease. How often do you work on your decision making process?