Making Good Decisions

This is a classic article that I have reused several times.  The article “Great Escapes” by Michael Useem and Jerry Useem appeared in Fortune (6/27/05) on pg. 97.  It is about thing to use to avoid typical decision making problems.

These are all relevant for anyone in business or healthcare, but with the massive amount of change required in healthcare, it seems like these will be relevant at the macro level.

  1. Problem: Analysis paralysis
    Solution: 70% solution
    “A less than ideal action, swiftly executed, stands a chance of success, whereas no action stands no chance.”
  2. Problem: Sunk-cost syndrome
    Solution: Burn the boat
    “There is no such thing as timeless perfection, only obsolescence.”
  3. Problem: Yes-man echoes
    Solution: Voice question not opinions
    This one is pretty obvious, but if you have a strong personality or executive in the room, once they state their opinion you will get a much different level of interaction.
  4. Problem: Anxiety overload
    Solution: Look at the clock
    “A panicked mind stops processing new information, reverts to tried-and-true responses, and is prone to snap decisions that make things worse.”
    It talks about fighter pilots looking at the calm clock while things are spinning on their gauges.  The idea of finding a calming point to focus on.
  5. Problem: Warring camps
    Solution: Let the battle rage
    “Political infighting can be destructive, but battles over substance, managed well, can be constructive.”
    This reminds me of a boss who taught me that it was critical to have a close team where people could share opinions openly to drive value.
  6. Problem: A wily adversary
    Solution: Clone your opponent
    “Assigning a person (or a group) to think like your competitor can expose flaws that, identified early, are less likely to be fatal.”
  7. Problem: To be?  Or not to be?
    Solution: Go with the omen
    I am not so sure about this, but the point is that sometimes your mind is made up and allowing an event to trigger a decision may make sense.
  8. Problem: Inexperience
    Solution: Educate your instincts
    “Blind instincts cannot be trusted, but they can be educated.”  (Think flight simulator as preparing you for different situations.)
  9. Problem: Self-interested thinking
    Solution: What would Sara Lee do?
    Harder to use advice, but they suggest imagining that the company is a person with rational desires – security, growth, good relationships, respect, and a sense of purpose.  Then thinking about how they would react.  (Or our test at Express Scripts was what would Barbara Martinez say.  She is a journalist on the topic for the WSJ.)

Henry Ford said, “My advice to young men is to be ready to revise any system, scrap any methods, abandon any theory if the success of the job demands it.”

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