Biz Strategies: How to make decisions

A few weeks ago, the company that is contracted to maintain our local roads made a bad decision.  

Deciding to simultaneously repair two pieces of pavement several miles apart snarled traffic all day. The reason for the initial decision was based on efficiencies, but it actually had the exact opposite result. Armed with the excuse that traffic volume was higher than anticipated left the impression that the decision makers haven’t tried to get around in Whistler this summer.

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It’s a good reminder that making timely decisions based on solid information can lead to successful outcomes. Conversely, taking too long to make decisions or making bad ones can be costly and detrimental.

In 1956, economist Herbert Simon introduced a concept to decision-making called “satisficing” and “maximizing.”

Satisficing prioritizes an adequate solution over an optimal solution. Satisficers don’t overthink and they make decisions once they find a solution that meets their criteria.  That doesn’t mean they settle for mediocrity, but they don’t waste more time searching for answers when they have already found one.

Conversely, maximizers examine every option to make the best possible choice, even when they have found a perfectly acceptable solution at the onset.

In his book The Paradox of Choice, author Barry Schwartz opines that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. The latter spends so much time and energy to reach a decision, and often accompany that with anxiety over whether they are making the best choice.

So while there is a definite process to making good decisions, the first rule of thumb is to ensure it is a fluid one that moves forward in a timely manner.

The starting point is to determine the purpose of your decision and why it should be solved. Clarity around the problem also helps select an effective decision-making tool to map out likely consequences of decisions, weigh varying factors and ultimately choose the best actions.

There are as many decision-making tools as there are problems out there so depending on the complexity of the problem, you will want to choose a methodology that fits the style of both you and your team.

One such tool is the OODA Loop, developed in the 1950s. This model outlines a four-point decision loop that supports quick, effective and proactive decision-making. The acronym stands for observe, orient, decide and act.

The first stage is observe, and necessitates collecting current information from all sources. Secondly, orient involves analyzing the information to take a close look at your current reality. The next stage is decide, in that you will select a course of action and lastly, act is following through on your decision.

You can keep cycling through the OODA loop to judge the effects of your decision, but the important part is that this tool isn’t meant to be a static “do this, then this” approach, but instead fosters a continual process that engages everyone through reviewing each step.

And in the end, make a decision and move on. Second-guessing yourself chews up a lot of energy and can sabotage the desired outcome. If it turns out to be the wrong decision, correct it and learn from mistakes.  

At Lighthouse Visionary Strategies, Cathy Goddard offers business and life coaching, workshops and is the founder of Lighthouse Mentor Network, a mentor program nominated for Small Business BC Awards for five consecutive years. Learn more at

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