Tough Decisions.

11 11 2017

When your values are clear to you, making decisions become easier.          Roy E. Disney

Life can be challenging and we all have to make choices. Some choices may be more challenging than others and can put you in really tough situations. Still, you have to make a choice for your decision.

From this interesting article; How to Tackle Your Toughest Decisions, by Joseph L. Badaracco, who is is the John Shad Professor of Business Ethics at Harvard School gives us insights in how to handle tough decisions in organisations as well as in life in general.

Badaracco; “Good judgement relies on two things: One is the best possible understanding and analysis of the situation. The other involves the values, ideals, vulnerabilities, and experiences of whoever will be making the decision.”

When you have chosen your decision and committed to it and act on it, you have to take the consequences of your choice say Badaracco. Author; “After considering outcomes, duties, practicalities and values, you must decide what matters most and what matters less. This has always been the challenge of taking on any serious responsibilities at work and in life.”

In daily life you are faced with challenging situations and adversity. The question is how you take it and analyse the difficulties you are faced with. Managers has to take difficult decisions almost everyday in organizations.

From another article; How to Bounce Back from Adversity, Joshua D. Margolis and Paul Stoltz, is talking about how to handle our instinctive reactions to crisis. Authors; “We believe that managers can build high levels of resilience in themselves and their teams by taking charge of how they think about adversity. Resilient managers move quickly from analysis, to a plan of action (and reaction). After the onset of adversity, they shift from cause-oriented thinking to response-oriented thinking, and their focus is strictly forward.”

Through their work with leaders from different companies and industries, the authors have identified four lenses through which managers can view adverse events on how to make this shift effectively. These four lenses are: Control, impact, breadht and duration. 

Here a short description of the four lenses; Control. Here a crisis occurs. “Do you look for what you can improve now rather than trying to identify all the factors – even those beyond your control – that caused it in the first place ? Impact. Instead of focusing on the origins of the problem in yourself and others, you focus on your positive effects your actions might have ? Breadht. “Do you assume that the underlying cause of the crisis is specific and can be contained, or do you worry that it might cast a long shadow over all aspects of your life ?” Duration. “How long do you believe that the crisis and it’s repercussions will last ?

The two first lenses; control and impact is characterising an individuals personal reaction to adversity.

Breadht and duration captures his or her impressions of adversity’s magnitude.

Authors; “Managers should consider all four to fully understand their instinctive responses to personal and professional challenges, or failures”.

When adversity strikes us, both in organizations and in the private zone of life, we can easily get in to negative emotions. The authors say that people commonly fall into one of two emotional traps. And one of them is deflation. Here is what the authors say; “Someone who has marched steadily through a string of success can easily come to feel like a hero, able to fix any problem single-handedly. A traumatic event can snap that person back to reality. Even for the less heroic among us, adversity can touch off intense bursts of negative emotion-as if a dark cloud had settled behind our eyes, as one manager described it”.

We can feel disappointments in ourselves and others, mistreated and dispirited as well as even besieged.

In the other article; How to tackle your toughest decisions, Badaracco say; “The phrase ‘the world as it is’ points toward Niccolo´Machiavelli’s thinking-a perspective that might seem surprising in an article about making responsible decisions. But his view is important because it acknowledges that we don’t live in a predictable, calm environment populated with virtuous people. The world Machiavelli described is unpredictable, difficult, and shaped by self-interest”.

The author say that we can have sound plans and they can end badly, as well as bad plans can turn out good. What happens is simply beyond our control. Leaders are in a position where they rarely have unlimited freedom and resources, and they often have to make painful and difficult choices. “And a great many individuals and groups will pursue their own agendas, skilfully or clumsily, if not persuaded to do otherwise”.

Badaracco are talking about five practical questions in his writing  which can improve your odds in making sound judgements in challenging situations, even when your data is unclear or incomplete, opinions are divided and the answers are far from obvious.

-1 What are the net, net consequences of all my options ?

-2 What are my core obligations ?

-3 What will work in the world as it is ?

-4 Who are we ?

-5 What can I live with ?

These five questions are guidelines for helping to solve challenging and difficult problems in tough situations. All the questions must be answered according the author, to help come to a sound decision when dealing with a hard problem.

Looking back at the other article; How to bounce back from adversity, the authors are using the four lenses (control, impact, breadht and duration) in challenging situations for solving problems. However, in addition to these four lenses the authors are using what they call a resilience regimen. This is a reflexive approach to dealing with adversity. Here they explain; “By asking a series of pointed questions, managers can grasp their own and their direct reports’ habits of thought and help reframe negative events in productive ways. With the four lenses as a guide, they can learn to stop feeling paralyzed by crisis, respond with strength and creativity, and help their direct reports do the same.”

The resilience regimen, sketches their questions with a focus on specifying, visualizing and collaborating which clarifies each one of the four aspects of resilient thinking. Authors; ” Use these questions to replace negative responses with creative , resourceful ones, and get things done whatever the real or perceived obstacles”.

From; How to tackle your toughest decisions, Badaracco makes us aware of the heavy responsibility leadership is. When you are in the grey areas, your job as a leader isn’t finding solutions, you have to create them and relying on your judgement. Author; “As an executive I greatly respect once told me, We really want someone or some rule to tell us what to do. But sometimes there isn’t one, and you have to decide what the most relevant rules or principles are in this particular case”.

Let us take responsibilities and search for solutions in challenging situations.

Hope you find this reading interesting and useful.

Author, Inger Lise E Greger, Master of Science in Change Management








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