A model for making complex decisions

May 22nd, 2017 by Patricia Jehle Leave a reply »

Got decisions? Join the club!

Most people think they make 70 a day, but many experts say that 35,000 conscious decisions are made by most adults daily.

If you are a CEO or business leader and you work only five days a week, you make almost 30 important decisions each day. Over 50% of those decisions are made in nine minutes, or even less. Only twelve percent are made in an hour or more. Of those 30 important decisions, there are multiple layers or micro-decisions found in each one.

Does that make you feel tired? It does me!

We all want to make good decisions so what can we do to make better ones?

Manage your choices. The below list of how to better manage (important) decisions is based on the TED talk by Sheena Iyengar and the article, both cited below, with my own added wisdom, as well.

1) Cut! in complexity and number

2) Make the results concrete

3) Categorize them (it’s easier for us to understand categories)

4) Watch your body clock

5) Take a walk, or at least a coffee break

6) Use your Gut instinct, with balance and reason

7) Ask others for help, just do it! (For more look here: http://wp.me/p5Y10a-4r )


Dealing with decisions in a rational and ethical way

When you make big decisions it is good to have a framework that you can go through. I have combined the rational and the ethical decision making models into one set of questions below. For me it is important to be rational, but also to include the human question into the framework so that the results on people are considered in the decision making process.


Here is the list of steps:

  1. Identify the situation and the problem
  2. Ask for whom is it a problem and for whom not
  3. Think about this in an ethical framework
  4. Identify any support that may be available
  5. Establish criteria for success and scale what’s most/least important
  6. Identify alternatives (brainstorm)
  7. Evaluate the alternatives (what happens if you do/or don’t do each one)
  8. Choose a best alternative
  9. Implement the decision
  10. Evaluate the decision and the outcome
  11. Make any needed changes
  12. Regularly check on the impact of the decision on people

Making a big decision won’t be that simple, of course, and when decisions are affecting large organizations it will be quite difficult first to implement, but also second, to evaluate and then readjust the original decision. It’s very complex.

A good model for making decisions will help

Always remember to think in complex terms when making decisions


  • The Pareto principle applies, always! That means not everything is weighted equally, so focus energy on the wining decisions, and find the “losers” to get rid of them.
  • There will be unexpected consequences, so watch for them and adjust when necessary; but it’s okay to make another decision, or to readjust.
  • Remember that your organization’s system may really mess up your decision, so be prepared for disappointment and re-adjustment. Systems do not adapt to change easily and inertial and balance are the status quo.
  • Always try for a win-win situation for all people involved and you will keep your best team members and maybe bring the slow movers on board more easily.

Whenever there is a change, expect it to take longer and be more difficult than planned, but with good preparation and with continued optimization, all will go well, eventually.

Enjoy your decision-making this week!

Patricia Jehle




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