Inside View: Taking time to decide on ending indecisiveness

June 28, 2008
Written by Gary Jones
I used to be indecisive. Now I’m just not so sure. At this time of year, many ornamentals growers are touring seed company variety trials or catching up on catalogues or with seed reps, trying to select varieties to grow next season. For some of us, that may be a challenging decision. For others, deciding on a new piece of equipment may be difficult. The same goes for purchasing a new property for expansion, or hiring an extra manager for that new crop of peppers. How often, when faced with making a decision, do you feel like the task is simply just too difficult for you?

Decision-making can be defined, according to Wikipedia, as “the cognitive process leading to the selection of a course of action among variations. Every decision-making process produces a final choice.” The understanding of making decisions is a subject area included in management science, and specific aspects of this are their own disciplines. For example, the study of mathematical models and tools for solving problems is known as “decision science.” The processes of making a decision within specific professions also often follow particular patterns. For example, the health-care profession often uses a technique known as “BRAND” (Benefit, Risks, Alternatives, Nothing and Decision).

Within the business community, there are at least 27 different models for decision-making, including some that many of us are familiar with:

  • “SWOT” – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
  • Cost/benefit analysis. Maybe even “Decision Trees” are something you have practised. Others you may have done without knowing, for example using your “Six Thinking Hats” or “satisficing.” Strategic thinkers building visions of the bigger picture being developed often use a system abbreviated to “PEST” (Political, Economic, Socio-cultural and Technological), which for horticulturists has nothing to do with insect problems!
  • Identify the issue clearly. There’s really no point in making a decision that didn’t need making.
  • Seek wise counsel from respected sources. Friends and colleagues can often be more impartial, especially if the topic is potentially an emotional one.
  • If possible (or appropriate), involve people1 who will be affected by the decision. You will benefit from their “buy-in.”
  • Stay focused. Don’t get sidetracked into other issues that just confuse your thinking. How often have you sat in a meeting and gone around in circles without actually coming to a decision? Frustrating.
  • Decide one thing at a time.
  • Don’t make decisions that aren’t yours to make.1
  • Avoid snap decisions.1 By that, make fast decisions on issues that are reversible, and slow decisions on those that are permanent.
  • Right reasons, not right person.1 Make decisions based on what is right, not who is right.
  • Avoid the blame game.2 Resolve the issue/problem, rather than letting stress of the situation cause “finger pointing.”
  • Consider alternatives. This might need brainstorming.
  • Stick with your decision. If you don’t, you’ll be back in an endless debating circle.
  • See it through. Unless it’s immediately obvious the decision was a poor one, stick with it and give it time to work out.

Avoid inappropriate “anchors”3. The brain puts more weight on the first information it receives. Often the anchor is historical data that may not be relevant to the current issue.

Stay away from the “status quo trap”3. Instinctively, we stay with the familiar. This may be a poor decision if evidence is pointing to a need for change. Remember that doing nothing is always one of your alternatives, but it should not necessarily be a default.

Beware the “justify past actions” trap3. Make a conscious effort to set aside your “past actions” (investments of emotion, money or other resources) as you consider an important decision.

Steer clear of the “confirming evidence” trap1. Be open-minded and consider all alternatives, not just those that confirm what you’d like to believe.
There are many more traps (the “Framing trap” and the “Estimating and Forecasting trap,” as more examples), but concentrate on the positives first.

USEFUL RESOURCES
To find out more about decision-making, chose one of the websites below (if you can):

1http://www.liraz.com/tdecision.htm
2Carter McNamara, http://www.managementhelp.org/prsn_prd/prb_bsc.htm
3Kare Anderson, www.pertinent.com/articles/communication/kareCom11.asp .

Gary Jones is Chair of Production Horticulture at Kwantlen University College and serves on several industry committees. He can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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