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Decision-making

Tough decisions – a risk approach

Looking at decision making through the lens of risk management can provide significant benefits. Understanding risk management principles can not only assist in making tough business decisions but also life decisions.

How you make decisions

I have been researching what is on offer to guide people on “how to make tough decisions”. What I have found so far is a range of 3-12 steps to follow when making a tough or difficult decision. Most if not all of the steps where similar, if not the same.

The online content varied from magazine articles to world renowned and recognised “experts” in this field. Take for example business coach and inspirational speaker Tony Robins, his “how to” on tough decisions consists of 6 steps, divided into two phases (Robins 2021): Phase 1 Outcomes, Options, Consequences; Phase 2 Evaluate, Mitigate, Resolve

When I read this and the others I had found (there were so many) I was struck by the familiarity of it all. Then I realised where I had seen it. As an Aviator, specifically a military aviator, I was introduced to the principles and process of Risk Management back in the late 90s. The process and our use of it evolved over time and the number of steps in the process also vary from 4-8 but this process is what I recognised in Tony’s and most of the other articles offered.

Comparison to Risk Management

Looking at the Risk Management Process (ISO 2018) and Decision making steps side by side you can clearly see the similarities.

I was surprised to find that the majority of the “how to make tough decisions” guidance was basically a risk management process and basic old school “weighing up of Pros and Cons”.

Using a Risk Management Lens

Looking at decision making through the lens of risk management can provide significant benefits. Understanding risk management principles can not only assist in making tough business decisions but also life decisions. The process and steps are about providing structure around the age old “weighing up of Pros and Cons”. Writing down lists of pros and cons, help contextualise the decision and help identify the options. Consulting those impacted and looking at the what ifs can help with analysis and evaluating the potential outcomes. Finally and most importantly monitoring and reviewing your decision to see if you have achieved the initial outcome/goal. This is one thing that I felt was lacking in a number of the “how to” guides. Worth noting that The Corporate Wellness (Gray n.d.) 5 steps did include the post decision evaluation but it was in the minority.

Learning from our past

This post decision evaluation is how we learn, continuously improve, stop repeating the same mistakes – essential for any successful business. It provides an avenue to correct the less than ideal, bad, sub-optimal decisions. The evaluation can provide decision makers permission to admit they are wrong. To show that they can make mistakes and that they take ownership of them. As a leader admitting you are wrong and demonstrating humility can be extremely difficult. But this action can have such a powerful effect on your followers, you grow respect from those who work for you. What is worse? Owning up to a poor decision or sticking with it to save face whilst everyone knows it was not the right one.

At first, using a risk management process to help guide your tough decisions may be clunky and challenging. With practice it can provide you with confidence and clarity over the decision you make.

Works Cited

Gray, Kescia D. n.d. “5 Steps to Good Decision Making.” Corproate Wellness Magazine. Accessed Apr 2021. https://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/article/5-steps-to-good-decision-making.

ISO. 2018. “ISO 31000:2018 Risk Management – Guidelines.” ISO. Accessed Apr 2021.

Robins, Tony. 2021. Ask Tony “How do I make tough decisions?”. Accessed Apr 2021. https://www.tonyrobbins.com/ask-tony/making-tough-decisions/

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