I find that I’m constantly faced with making difficult decisions in my business. Do I pursue this opportunity or that, make this investment or not, where do I spend my time, what activities do I say no to (that’s a hard when everything’s so enticing)? Big, challenging, hard decisions seem to come up with some frequency. Part of the reason they’re so difficult is because of the level of complexity – there are lots of options, competing interests, specific expectations and limited resources. In other words, many things to take into consideration.
Simplify what feels complicated by creating a decision table! It helps me to process through everything and is especially useful when deciding between many different choices that require a significant investment of time and/or resources (which are inherently limited in nature, decide wisely!). Just to show you how useful they are, when my husband and I were deciding to move out to Fort Collins almost 6 years ago, yup, I made a decision table! And we love it here
I also use a Decision Table when choosing which Business Development activities I want to pursue. Here’s an example:
Anyway, the process of making a decision table is valuable as it helps you to gain clarity around your priorities and expectations. It is also a very useful tool, developing and sharing decision making tables systematizes your business (that’s why it is important to be organized and remember where you develop and save these kinds of documents). To start, make a list of your objectives – these are the factors that have the utmost importance in your decision.
Consider for a moment that you’re deciding what business development activities to invest in. Both cost and time are invariably objectives in need of considering (these are inputs). Other objectives may include the opportunity to network and build relationships, creating brand awareness, linkbacks to your own website, etc. (these are outcomes). An objective I consider very important is Professional Development as I like business activities that offer added value and personal growth (that’s not an obvious objective though).
You might want to write a brief description about what each objective means; you’ll likely find the meanings to change over time as you become more certain of what you’re priorities are. Brainstorm all the different options you have to choose among. List your options in the first column of an excel spreadsheet and put the objectives as headers to the rows.
Once you’ve identified your objectives and options it is time to begin filling in your decision table. Rank some objectives based on how well each option meets your objectives on a scale of 1-3 as appropriate. For inherently quantitative objectives like time and money put in specific details, how much does it cost and how much time is required. And have a space for comments or notes where you can write down any particular anecdote that’s of interest.
As you begin to see the decision table filled in you might develop more awareness of your priorities. For example, an option might rank high in one objective but utterly lack in another, more imperative, objective. That’s why it is important to look at the parts as well as the sum of the whole. If you make your choice based on the option receives the highest score (adding all the objectives together), then consider assigning a weight to your objectives that way your priorities are being taken into account.
You just have to play around with decision tables and modify to improve them for your situation and your needs over time. The goal of this process is to help you to simplify what feels complicated so that you make make the decision that’s best for you, one that is objective yet relative to your situation! Ultimately, there’s usually no obvious right or wrong decision, life’s a little more complicated than that. Strive to make the smart decision for you and your situation, now that’s a realistic goal!