“If you’re a quarterback,” argues Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, “you want everything on your shoulders. You want to be the decision maker.” Quarterback or ordinary decision maker, we’ve all felt the burden of decision making. Metaphorical football achieves touchdown status only through a combination of the right people, the right conditions, and the right decisions.
Excitement about a decision can get in the way of clear thinking. Just think of what Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John McKay says about emotion: “Excitement is highly overrated in soccer. My wife Corky is very emotional, but she can’t play soccer at all.”
A more analytical approach, but one that doesn’t rely too heavily on numbers, can help you, whether you’re making decisions alone or as a team.
THE McKINSEY SEVEN “S” APPROACH
Data alone shouldn’t be the only thing we depend on when making important decisions. McKinsey and Company urges moving beyond relying solely on quantitative information. The world-renowned management consulting firm emphasizes the value of examining style, skills, systems, structure, people, strategy, and shared value.
Other experts recommend identifying the long-term problems facing the organization. This critical first step has far-reaching implications. Identification may mean having strategic review meetings that involve frank conversations with final decision makers.
Clearly, there are numerous approaches to making the right decisions. However, identification is vital: many experts believe that it is better to have the wrong answer to the correctly defined problem than to have the correct answer to the incorrectly identified problem.
HOW GOOD IS YOUR WHEAT?
Many decision makers pride themselves on having a “golden instinct”, that is, they make decisions based on their intuition. There is nothing wrong with doing that if you know for sure that your intuition is more than 90% accurate.
The best decision makers can avoid the “certainty” that often turns out to be false. They give credence to the estimates that 50% of the assumptions we make are wrong. Here’s an easy way to test the accuracy of your intuition. Simply answer “true” or “false” to each statement on the next page using only your “knee-jerk reaction” as a guide.
1) The tiger is the second largest species in the cat family.
2) Tigers can reach a length of up to 9 feet and weigh up to 400 pounds.
3) Among the many subspecies are the Malayan tiger, the Siberian tiger, the Bengal tiger, the South China tiger, the Sumatran tiger, and the Indochinese tiger.
4) The tiger is no longer in danger, thanks to human effort.
5) Most (about 80%) of tiger cubs live to become adult tigers.
6) When the tigers congregate, the group is known as a flattering of the tigers.
7) Tigers are afraid of water.
8) White tigers are figments of the writers’ imagination.
9) Tigers have their most successful hunts when they run together during the day.
10) Most of the tigers in the world today are in the wild.
Give the questionnaire to your team. Their answers will help you when you are making decisions as a group. If there are truly intuitive people on the team, someone with a perfect score, take your “knee-jerk reactions” seriously. If the team has wildly diverse responses, this same lack of unanimous thinking suggests that a more unified approach may be necessary. Rather than voting as a group on the best decision, there are more structured decision-making approaches available to teams.
Here are the responses to the tiger quiz:
# 1 False (The tiger is the biggest cat).
# 2 False (can grow up to 11 feet and weigh 660 pounds).
# 3 True
# 4 False (It is in danger due to hunting and the destruction of its habitat).
# 5 False (Half of the puppies do not live more than two years).
# 6 False (They are known as a tiger “ambush”).
# 7 False (they’re actually pretty good swimmers).
# 8 False (they exist, one in 10,000 genes will produce a white tiger).
# 9 False (They are most successful at night, when hunting individually).
# 10 False (most are kept as pets and in zoos).
DO YOU WANT TO BE A TIGER FOR A DAY?
The African proverb that states, “I’d rather be a tiger for a day than a lamb for a hundred days,” suggests an aggressive approach to decision-making, not a haphazard or condescending one. Keep the seven “s” words in mind when, working alone or collectively, you have to make important decisions.