I so thoroughly enjoy Rosa Say. Not just her blog, but her whole persona. Her book, Managing with Aloha, is packed with sage wisdom derived from seemingly simple island philosophies, yet each chapter is a new nugget to be slowly savored and digested.
In true "Rosa Say fashion" she has crafted another thought-provoking blog post about decision-making, which just compelled me to comment. (Time prevents me from commenting on a lot of blogs these days, so when I do, it's a big deal for me.) This small paragraph is so telling I'm thinking of framing it above my desk:
For instance, is it a very solitary process for you, concentrating most deliberately on what you think, and what you then realize you believe, or is it important to you to bounce your gut instincts off others too? Do you write yourself through it (I do... my morning pages is a BIG part of my process) or do you talk your way through it? Do you bother documenting it at all, or visually mind-mapping it?
Decisions are important. They drive us forward in business, whether they are publicly documented or privately derived. But I'd like to take a step back from Rosa's decision-making process. As I admitted in her comments, I'm a systems-thinking addict, and the input to any decision is ultimately a question. So while she has beautifully dissected decision-making, I want to pick apart the questions which create the need for a decision.
In short, are we asking the right questions?
If the answer to that is "NO" then no decision-making matrix will cure the issue at hand. In my current creativity class, I've been challenging my students to rethink how they think. Are they looking in the right places? Are they asking the right questions? Are they framing the world around them in the right context? Deep questions, eh? Not necessarily?
I tend to categorize questions in three ways:
Verb-led questions: Some people call these close-ended questions because the answer can generally be a yes or a no. But often, people don't realize they are asking a close-ended question. Being a bit of a grammar geek (marriage to an English teach only exacerbates the problem), I prefer to use the term "verb-led" because close-ended questions always start with a verb: Can I...? Did you...? Will he...? Should she...? Have you...? Are they...? Not a lot of information comes out of one of these questions. I use them when the decision needs a quick yes or no (which is never as often as I'd like).
Project-manager questions: Who, when, where, what? Better than a verb-led question, these will prompt you for more information... factual information. Data-driven information. I call these project manager questions because these are the questions most often asked by project managers. They live in the concrete world. Give them a date and a deliverable and they're generally a happy bunch. Show them a resource chart to say who is working on what and they're downright giddy. Again, there's a time and a place for this kind of question, but the decisions derived from them are still rather finite in nature.
Thinker-Tinker questions: Why and how? I ABSOLUTELY LOVE these kinds of questions! Or throw an "if" statement or two on one of the above categories, and you've just moved into the category of really digging down deep into something. It's the thought-process equivalent of rolling up your sleeves and getting all gooey up to your elbows. But I don't ask these questions simply to pontificate. I generally don't care if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it whether or not it made a sound. (Gimme a chainsaw and I'll show you a sound, buddy). These cannot be driven by a simple decision-diamond, nor should they. Give some time to explore and discussion and argue and backtrack and query and quandry... these kinds of questions yield gold. They help you solve and diagnose, examine and dissect, combine and contract They help you THINK.
We all need to make decisions, but the pre-cursor is whether we can make an incision in the decision to find the inquisition. Think about that one for a while. Then take two questions and call me in the morning.