Almost 10 killer questions for great decision making!

In a high-tech world we’ve been fascinated that last week the world was focused on the roof tops of the Vatican, where it was a very low tech smoke signal that was the sole indication of the decision-making progress of 115 Cardinals forming the Conclave.

In the scheme of things it was a quick decision. The longest ever Papal election followed the death of Pope Clement IV and lasted from November 1268 to September 1, 1271, a whopping 3 years!

So it got me thinking about some of the strategies we can employ and questions that we can ask ourselves to support our own decision-making, and ensure that well thought through decisions don’t take, or feel like they take, almost 3 years to achieve.

We’re not saying that many of our decisions are of such a magnitude, but they are often significant enough to make our hearts race a little as we want to be sure we get them right.

The modern science of quick decision-making is called heuristics and it’s concerned with finding simple rules for making good decisions.

One of its discoveries is that drawing up a simple list of ‘for’ and ‘against’ and then going with the longer list, can produce as good or an even better result.

It’s even the approach that Charles Darwin took when trying to decide whether or not to marry his cousin Emma. The upside was that she was ‘better than a dog’ but a downside was that he would have less money for books. Lucky for Emma (possibly) was the fact that the list of pros was longer!

Given that making good decisions is a crucial part of business, we thought that we’d have a go at creating
9 and a half killer questions to make decision-making easier for you.

  1. What is the outcome that I want to achieve?
  2. What will I need to see, hear and feel to give me confidence that my decision was the right one?
  3. What deadline am I working to? (Time gives your perspective, so if you have plenty of it available don’t rush too quickly to a decision)
  4. Who else should I involve to ensure that I’ve covered every angle and aspect of this decision?
  5. What can I learn from great decisions that I’ve made in the past?
  6. Am I going to be able to live with this decision?
  7. Have I considered all of the available options?
  8. What are the potential short and long-term implications associated with it?
  9. If I listen carefully, what are my instincts telling me?

and for the half……Will it make my mother proud?

It’s also worth remembering that not all decisions are created equal, so if it’s just a case of deciding what to have for breakfast rather than electing the leader of the Roman Catholic church  then a really quick gut feel decision can be just as effective!

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The very talented Mr Pettigrew

The very talented Mr Pettigrew

The very talented Mr Pettigrew

We work with a carefully chosen team of Associates who share our passion for people development and bring a range of expert skills and operational experience to Clear Thinking. This team is known as The Sticky Thinking Forum.

As well as supporting us to provide bespoke people development services to our clients, the Forum is a “think tank” where members collaborate and continue to develop together by sharing knowledge and expertise with each other.

This month we’ve asked the very talented Ian Pettigrew from Kingfisher Coaching to give us an insight into his work and to share some of his thoughts with you…..some of you may already have met him!

What do you absolutely love about the work you do?

Seeing a sustainable positive difference in people when they realise their strengths and I love the fact that I can act as a catalyst to drive that through playing to my own strengths.

What do you think are the top 3 challenges faced by the leaders you work with?

It is really hard to generalise and I see different challenges in different sectors, but these are some common themes:

1 – Time to do their job, attend to everything that needs attending to, keep on top of email, and still get the best out of people.

2 – Time and headspace to drive strategic change.

3 – Driving a more agile and innovative organisation.

What do you think is their biggest opportunity?

To take control and make bold moves on all three fronts.

What do you do when your work with a client doesn’t go the way you planned? What enables you to get back on track?

A crystal clear focus on what success looks like and the desire to use feedback to move (sometimes flexibly) towards that successful outcome. All key skills that are useful for my clients as well.

Describe the journey that has brought you to the Sticky Thinking Forum? What do you value about it?

The journey started with meeting Kate on a course and then getting to know Bev and Kate a lot better. What I value about the Sticky Thinking Forum is time with people who I like, respect, and trust.

If you could invent something that could rock your client’s world, what would it be, and how would it work?

An App that would prompt people to stop and think about the past week, to reflect on it and learn from feedback and experiences and then help them plan the week ahead and create time in their schedules for the important things.

When you’re not helping people realise their strengths how do you like to spend your time?

I’m married with two step-children and a Border Collie. I’m into sport (Liverpool FC & Formula 1), I’m a lay minister (‘Reader’) in the Church of England, and I’m a trustee of a charity called Retrak who work with street children across Africa.

When I’m not doing anything connected with these, I really enjoy reading and watching reality TV (not Big Brother; anything medical or police-related and things like ‘The Hotel’, ‘The Hotel Inspector’, and ‘The Apprentice’).

A quick word from Bev and Kate!

We love working with Ian as his passion, energy and enthusiasm shines through in everything he does. He asks great questions and is happy to challenge our thinking to stretch our outlook and perspective. You can find out even more about Ian on his website.

Choose one thing, tell everyone!

Last month we started to look at how we could successfully work the doing more with less trend and avoid the impact of the almost inevitable budget ‘squeeze’.

In January our focus fell on the ‘small is beautiful’ approach and for February we have been thinking about how the ‘Let’s Tell The World’ approach can become both an instant hit and a timeless classic.

The ‘Let’s Tell The World’ Approach

Rather than target a small population with your learning & development activities, you could choose an area for development and give everyone in the organisation some exposure to it.

Rather than depth of understanding this is about breadth, it’s about your message ‘going viral’ in the business and your aim is likely to be universal adoption of an idea or concept, and a subsequent change in attitude or behaviour.

This approach challenges the organisation to have a really good grasp of ‘The Ground Truth’ – knowing what’s really going on in the business, even in the dustiest corners – and to identify one thing that could have a significant positive impact on the success of the organisation.

There are some immediate challenges to overcome:

1. Getting traction for something on this scale

2. Demonstrating relevance to everyone

3. Identifying just one thing to focus on

Finding and focusing on just one key improvement area and talking about that makes it easy for people to grasp, key messages are broadcast universally (and hopefully heard!), it’s BIG, it has impetus, it has traction and people feel part of something that is important to their on-going success.

Success isn’t guaranteed, particularly if the focus is too short and sharp. It can be seen as a flash in the pan with little substance, leaving people too little time to change and practice new ways of thinking and behaving.

If the message is too broad or has too many elements to it then the audience cannot interpret what’s happening around them and they are unsure about how to take the learning from their experiences or translate it into action.

With a big audience the message can be diluted and interpreted differently as it cascades through the structure of the organisation, so there’s a drift away from the original outcome that the business had in mind.

5 ways to maximise your Return On Investment with this approach……

  1. Choose your focus wisely! You get what you focus on so be sure to choose the thing that will make the difference you actually want. If you’ve not read / seen Freakonomics yet, now could be a good time to take a look!
  2. Create a buzz in the business by tailoring your approach to suit all your audiences. If it’s sexy enough people will want to be a part of the movement. 
  3. Be specific about what you want people to do with what you’re telling them. If you want them to spot learning and embed it back in the day job then you need to get them talking and let them decide how they will translate it into meaningful action.
  4. Link learning to organisational communication and highlight success stories from around the business. Talk often about what’s evolving and about successes and show them how they are creating the change.
  5. Adopt a little and often approach so people are reminded about what’s staying the same, what’s changing and how far they have come, and why it matters to them.

Sticky Thinking Top Secrets for Doing More With Less

Following on from our previous blog ……..

Number 4: What lurks at the back of your training cupboard?

If you want to get more from your training budget, take a leaf out of many a fashionista’s book and have a good root through your wardrobe – which in Learning & Development terms means digging out the training & development programmes from the past and looking for the past gems that are ready to be recycled.

What key messages have you delivered in the past that are relevant right now? What fantastic material can be dusted down, spruced up and put back into circulation with an up-to-date twist that makes it super relevant for 2013?

Working this way gives you a real opportunity to do more with what you already have.

Number 5: DIY Development

On a more personal level why not take advantage of the many and varied opportunities to grab a bit of web based inspiration and register for a free webinar? Easy to fit in and a great way of exploring a topic that is important to you.

Number 6: The Big Question…

“What’s the Ground Truth in your organisation? What are the things that are contributing to your success and what’s holding you back? Do you really know the truth?

We’ve shared some more of our ideas, but how are you going to do more with less during 2013? We’d love to hear your thoughts and we’ll be happy to share them too!

Get in touch at and tell us how you’ve been approaching the doing more with less trend in your organisation.

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Image Credit: Microsoft