Having to make difficult decisions is a key part of my job. Some of these decisions can often be unpopular – but I suppose that’s what I get paid for.
Every decision is usually associated with a variety of options which will usually have a number of distinct features, namely:
- Consequences – each option will have positive and negative consequences directly associated with that course of action;
- Emotional attachment – there are usually people who will have an positive emotional response to one of the options and a negative emotional response to another.
- Evidence – most options will have associated evidence which can be used to either support or counter their effectiveness
- Familiarity – options which have proved successful in the past.
My own decision making process tries to take account of the above but there is one other question which I ask myself whenever I have to make a decision: How does this choice of option relate to other features of our practice?
Prior to that time I tended to make decisions based on a rough amalgam of the four factors mentioned earlier but where I looked at individual decisions as discrete entities. The lesson I learned from Senge was to see “things” as being part of a system, or part of a whole and that no one decision is ever disconnected from another – particularly if you are trying to achieve an overall goal.
However, all other things being equal it’s the connectedness to other factors and their relationship to the overall goal which will have decisive effect on which option will be selected.