I’m a huge fan of Chip and Dan Heath, the authors of Switch, Made to Stick, and, most recently, Decisive. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to graphically record a session that Chip Heath facilitated last year, where he gave an overview of the decision-making framework, called WRAP:
The WRAP model suggests that if we do the following, we’ll make better, and more decisive decisions:
- Widen our options
- Reality-test our assumptions
- Attain distance before deciding
- Prepare to be wrong
Adapted from Decisive, below are 5 decision-making tips for teams facing tough decisions.
1. Move from “either/or” thinking to “and” thinking
When you hear the team debating “this” or “that,” avoid this narrow decision frame by asking how you might do “this” AND “that”? For example, how could you increase efficiency AND be more innovative?
2. Use the vanishing options test
Sometimes a team goes down a road brainstorming options along a certain trajectory, then fails to explore other avenues. Avoid this pitfall by using the “vanishing options” test. Once the team has generated a list of possible solutions, tell them they can’t select any of the solutions on their list and challenge them to come up with additional options. Teams will start to dig beyond their first instinctive responses.
3. Think 10/10/10
To help mitigate the effect of short-term emotion on your decision to do (or not to) something, ask the team how they’ll feel about the decision they are considering 10 minutes from now, 10 months from now and 10 years from now. Does anything change?
4. Conduct a pre-mortem
Instead of doing a post-mortem on a project (where you look back and figure out what went well and what didn’t), try a pre-mortem. Imagine a dismal result for your current project 6 or 12 months from now, then ask the team to fill in the blanks on how things could have gone so badly. The team will generate a long list of items they can then plan to avoid moving forward.
5. Stop defending and analyze
When team members have competing ideas and the team gets stuck debating the merits of each but can agree, ask: “What would have to be true for each option to be the right answer?” The question helps the team move from an adversarial conversation to an analytical one, where each side begins looking for evidence to support the other side’s idea. Once this shift in the tone of the conversation happens, defenses go down and one solution can “win” without anyone feeling like they’ve lost.
Humans are not particularly good at rational decision-making. In fact, the research tells us we’re pretty darned horrible at it (see Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow”). These five tips can help teams resist their natural tendencies and make better, more decisive decisions.
Lane Change Consulting is a consultancy based in San Francisco specializing in graphic facilitation and team effectiveness. We design and facilitate strategic, collaborative conversations that create clarity, focus and engagement in organizations. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.