Decision time

We make thousands of decisions each day. Some are fairly trivial, but others have signficant and far-reaching consequences for us, for our organisations and for the people around us. Which is why it is vital that we make decisions in an informed way. Even if we have only seconds to do so.

I’m a big fan of checklists, decision-making tools and such like. They take the hassle out of the way in which we make decisions, so we can stop worrying about how to make the decision and focus instead on making the right one.

One of my favourite decision-making tools is FORDEC, which is used extensively in the aviation industry. And if it’s good enough for people who voluntarily leave the ground in a large metal tube, then it’s certainly good enough for the rest of us.

Here’s how it works:

F is for FACTS – What has happened? What is the problem? What has caused it? What do we know? Time taken to assess the facts is crucial, as it helps us to decide what to do about them.

O is for OPTIONS – What choices do you have, given the problem and the circumstances in which it has arisen? Is urgent action required or do you have more time?

R is for RISKS – What are the upsides and downsides of each of the options at your disposal? How do the options compare with the risk of doing nothing? Are any too risky?

D is for DECISION – What is the most suitable option from those available? What are you going to do? Can you make the decision alone or do you need to consult with others?

E is for EXECUTION – Implement your decision. Take action. Where necessary, assign clear tasks to the people who are to execute them.

C is for CHECK – Is everything going as planned? Has the initial problem been resolved? If not, go back to F and start again.

In my experience, the FORDEC approach works whenever a decision has to be made. The main factor influencing how you use it, though, is the amount of time available.

If you have all the time in the world, you can explore the available options in detail, with the aim of finding the perfect way forward for the circumstances in which you find yourself.

If it’s an urgent decision, though, you’re looking for an option that resolves the immediate issue. And you need to find it quickly. You can always come back and smooth off any rough edges later on.

So no matter what decision you’re making, and how quickly you need to make it, having a standard approach that you can draw on will always stand you in good stead. FORDEC works for me. And I hope it will work for you, too.

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