You Ask, I Answer: Making Critical Decisions Process?

Conor asks, “What is your standard approach to making critical decisions? Do you have a tried and tested method when faced with tough decisions?”

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Christopher Penn 0:13

What is the standard approach to making critical decisions? Is there a tried and true tried and tested method, when faced with tough decisions? The tried and true method that I tend to use is based on the Eisenhower matrix.

So if you’re unfamiliar, the Eisenhower matrix was originally just a two by two matrix of urgency and importance.

And the third dimension that I typically add is ease.

So ranking your decisions, you need to be made by the urgency with which a decision needs to be made, how soon do you need to make it the importance of the decision? And then how easy is it to take action Once a decision has been made? So there are some things for example, like, migrating to Google Analytics 4, there is an urgency, there’s a deadline of July 1 2023.

There’s actually other things at play there as well.

But there’s a sense of urgency around it.

Is it important? Yes, it’s very important.

If you rely on web analytics, it’s super important that you need to update this because as of that date, the previous version, which your company is probably using, will stop working.

And then the third dimension, there is ease, how easy is it to make the migration while there’s, you know, some complications, but this is not rocket surgery, to do make the change for most businesses.

So that’s sort of the standardized approach when making decisions.

The other frameworks I’ve seen that also work really well, are your standard cost benefit analysis? What is the cost? What are the benefits? What are the pros and cons, the technique, the Benjamin Franklin technique, where you take a sheet of paper, then you write down your your pros and cons for a decision.

And then you look at what’s left, and you sort of weigh them.

Now one thing that the Franklin method doesn’t really take into account is sort of the emotional investment.

Because you can come up with a whole bunch of reasons that are more logical.

But if you are emotionally invested in a one side of the other, if it’s a decision, that’s going to impact, you emotionally have to take that into account.

Because it’s relatively straightforward.

For example, if you’re thinking about making a career change, you may do a tally of things like pay and benefits and working hours and location.

And all those things may be in the pros of changing jobs.

But if it’s for a company that you find reprehensible, like morally repugnant, and that’s the only con that’s still a pretty big con, you’re going to be doing work that you fundamentally unhappy with, that’s going to impact the rest of your work.

So the Franklin method with that emphasis on, on its emotional impact is another good method for making those kinds of decisions.

Whatever decision making framework you choose, understand, there will always be exceptions, there will always be things where things are not clear.

And that’s when it really helps to have a sort of a, I guess, an informal council of advisors, people who you can call on, and they can call on you.

So that’s it’s fair to ask their input to say, Hey, I’m struggling with this decision.

Here’s the pros and cons.

You’ve done your homework, right? You’ve got your Eisenhower matrix or your Franklin list.

And you say to them, what do you think, and that third party perspective, can often be very helpful for helping people understand, Okay, here’s the decision you’re trying to make, but they’re not necessarily as emotionally invested.

Or they may have prior experience or different points of view, that can help inform that decision and make it a little bit not easier for you to make, but make a better informed decision and one that has multiple points of view, including things you may not have considered.

So that would be my suggestion, find a framework, apply the framework and then get third party validation based on your decision from people that you trust.

Preferably people who don’t have conflict of interest and and use that as your decision making basis.


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