Thursday, June 14, 2007

Learn Decision making skills from the (US) government

At first I was quite surprised with the "wealth" of information available on the Small Business Administration site.... at least at a high level - ya'know, squinting. They have 4 nicely organized sections to "Plan your business", "Start your business", "Manage your business" and "Getting out"... So I'm looking through the basic headlines of each subsection thinking "hey, this is pretty good..." seeing things like "Choose a structure" and "Lease Equipment" and "Get Insurance" - a total of 30 sub-categories, including the one which caught my eye enough to go deeper, labelled "Make Decisions".

Following that link gave me three subsequent links - including the winner of my next click, called "Are You A Good Decision Maker?".

Here lies the key secrets to government beauracracy (which they apparently think should now be applied to small businesses).
The first section, called "Ten Steps to Wise Decision-Making" should actually be called 'Ten ways to put off making a decision for as long as possible'... Each step requires deeper and deeper analysis of the potential alternatives - with no limits - starting with defining the decision to be made and the insightful lesson to ask yourself "Do you really need to make a decision? (if you do not have at least two options, there is no decision to be made)". Then to "Brainstorm as many different alternatives as you can imagine - let your imagination run free..." - including the wise suggestion to "just be sure to write everything down" (clearly there was an auditor on the editorial staff). The next 6 steps require further discovery and then deeper dives into all the potential alternatives of your pending decision which may exist in this universe and elsewhere (at this point, I fully expected them to suggest that I go search my grandmother's attic - or attend 4 more years of college to uncover even more potential alternatives).... afterall, "Additional information generally leads to more alternatives"... so I should "check out", then "Sort through", then "visualize the outcomes", then "do a reality check" (you think they did one?), then, finally, pick the "wise decision" and "Get started!". So here in step 9 is where the true decision-making spirit glistens... "Second-guessing yourself will only cause grief" so "you always have the option of changing your mind in the future" - which sounds like a euphamism for 'go to step 3 and randomly choose another of your deeply analyzed 417 potential alternatives'. Oh my.. step 10 actually does suggest this - "If the decision did not come out the way you planned, go through the complete decision-making process again"....

So, I'm guessing this process wouldn't work well for decisions like "Should I check my parachute?" - cause if I am unhappy with decision alternative #17 in that case, I'm probably not able to "go through the complete decision-making process again". I know, an extreme example - but just needed to make the point... 'cause even a decision like "should we spend our full year's marketing budget on this TV ad" is not exactly reversible...and it feels as important as the parachute example to the small business owner...

The best part (yes, better than the other best part) was in the next section labelled "Common-decision making mistakes" where they list "Not listening to your feelings or gut reactions" as a mistake... Huh?! The process never mentioned anything about intuition or gut reaction before now!! Where was that advice when I needed it! I could have saved 4 months and 62 yellow pads if I just listend to my gut from the beginning!! Why'd ya tell me to keep looking for alternatives!!

Yeah... I'm sure they just mis-titled this whole thing...

No comments: