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  • Camron Finlay

Decision-making When All Options Look Bad

There are times and situations, often crises, where the stakes are high and none of the choices look acceptable. Whatever decision is eventually made there’ll be trade-offs to negotiate and the responsibility has been likely yours alone.

Complex situations are hard to grasp clearly. It’s hard to see all of the eventualities, opportunities, and risks. All of us are prone to biases and cognitive traps, and this can mean we downgrade risks, make faulty assumptions, and stay on a course when a new approach may be really what is needed.

Support Your Business

When hard decisions are faced, especially in a crisis, it helps to talk with other people, like a business mentor, accountant, lawyer, or your business network. All of these advisors are objective and supportive and have extensive knowledge and experience. Ask lots of questions and listen carefully to what is said. All of this is advice but it is you who must make the decision, so all of the advice needs to be weighed up to make your decision.

Prepare in Advance

It never hurts to think out loud. What types of crises might be faced – cash flow difficulties, loss of supplier/major customer, loss of premises, tax audit or other litigation? Do some scenario planning, consider the possible business conditions that could exist at the time, what advice or knowledge might be needed, and where you might find expertise, whether in your organisation or outside.

Five Steps to Optimise Decision Making

  1. Articulate and communicate the problem honestly and openly so that the facts are known and there will be a shared sense of purpose and trust.

  2. Ensure that information flows across the organisation, even if some of those people are not part of the management team.

  3. Insist upon encouraging ideas, experimentation and collaboration; every idea is welcome and tolerated, even if the idea is not a solution in itself.

  4. Embrace and use needed expertise, either in the organisation or from your broad range of support.

  5. Delegate and empower people to make decisions and to improvise or shift course as the situation changes.

“The Prepared Leader”

This is the title of a book by James and Wooten, based on their research in crisis management. They found few people accept in advance that a crisis may arise, but consider a prepared leader needs to be aware of and prepare for the worst. By preparing they build the capacity and support to face and overcome a crisis, more likely to emerge better off than before.

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