Help Your Consulting Clients Make the Right Decisions

Decision Making Pie Chart

Art: Lea Heinrich

For well over 200 years humans have used tables to help make decisions. Charles Darwin even used a two-column table with the headings Marry and Not Marry to decide the pros and cons for one of his most important personal decisions. (He married.)

Even though the two-column Pro and Con list is still one of the most widely used decision aids there are three additional simple tools that you can use as a consultant or business leader.

In the 1980's a business professor named Paul Nutt tracked decisions, how they were made, and their results. (The business people scored their own decisions for win or lose.)

Professor Nutt found overwhelmingly “a strong correlation between the number of alternatives and the ultimate success of the decision itself.”

Two additional findings on decision making are that homogeneous groups are too quick to come to a decision and have lower success rates than a diverse group of “experienced” people. (This has been backed up by many research findings.) The other is that decisions are more successful using a weighted-decision table that compares factors such as Cost, Value, Timelines, Impact, etc. Use the table and weights as a discussion piece for the diverse decision team.

How to Make a Big Decision, Steven Johnson, New York Times, Sep. 1, 2018

Critical to Success: Use an Excel-Based Decision Matrix for Critical Decisions

Critical to Success: Excel’s Four Quadrant – Matrix Model Chart:
Don’t Make a Decision without It!

Take Aways...

  • The super-confident “Uber-leader” type who only listens to opinions that reflect his/her own opinion appears more confident but is more often wrong.
  • The more alternatives that are considered (scenario planning or war gaming) the better the outcome.
  • Single decision makers or homogeneous groups make fewer successful decisions than diverse groups of experienced people. When there are more alternatives to choose from the decision is more likely to be successful.
  •  Decisions should rarely be based on a single factor. Using an Excel-based weighted decision tables or four-quadrant matrix improves success.

Action Items...

  • Use an experienced, diverse group to do scenario planning that identifies multiple scenarios and decision alternatives.
  • Use a “pre-mortem” to identify likely causes of failure for different scenario-decision alternatives.
  • Download the Excel-based weighted decision tables or four-quadrant matrix from Critical to Success, add weightings or two-factor axis and compare alternative decisions. Use a weighted table as a discussion piece for your team. 
  • Although a diverse group is often less confident in their decision, their decisions are more successful.