Deciding with system

Today’s decisions are characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – VUCA for short. The underlying influences are constantly on the move and offer with their volatility no robust basis for painstakingly elaborated decisions. The lack of predictability creates uncertainty and burdens business with surprises. The set of influencing factors and their interdependencies create a complexity that is hard to understand. The criteria, which can never be described adequately, might be interpreted in all possible directions and thus create an ambiguity that is difficult to handle. In a VUCA world, decisions have to be made quickly in order to have the opportunity to influence the changing conditions. What it needs is a system to decide.

The following system is scalable. The larger the task, the more attention is needed for one or the other step.

  • Specifying problem and goal
    A long-term analysis of the initial situation is always counterproductive, since it leads to the fact that the conditions have already evolved, when one finally decides. A snapshot of the future target state is sufficient to enable the participants to present the details of the solution. A brief description of the actual problem and an idea of the desired target state are the prerequisites for the next steps.
  • Understanding aspects, relationships and limitations
    An overview of the respective aspects of a decision, such as the involved people, information, objects, locations, etc., is the starting point. The relevant dependencies and influences between the areas determine the dynamics. Since we are only able to deal with 7plusminus2 aspects, we have to confine ourselves to look at these relationships individually. In addition to these restrictions resulting from the mutual effects, there are the limitations imposed by rules and laws. It is crucial to understand the interaction – not trying to simulate extensively.
  • Developing alternatives
    On the basis of this information, the search for possible choices starts. The larger the differences between the alternatives, the more likely that you will not miss a favorable alternative. This determines the solution space. In order to discuss the alternatives, it is helpful to create an appropriate documentation per option depending on the size of the task. Rough estimates are better than complex Excel tables. Simple sentences and representations are better than thick books.
  • Anticipate effects
    In order to evaluate the alternatives, it is a good idea to present the effects. Therefore, visions of the proposals are made, as if they have already been implemented. The individual images of the future are then questioned concerning the responses of the affected areas (for example the customers, the market, the competitors, the employees, the executives, the shareholders). It is very likely that those in this discussion involved people will have a picture of the future that is very close to reality. All statements should be taken seriously and taken into account in the assessment.
  • Decide
    The final step is the decision for one of the alternatives without fuss and quibble. Whoever leaves the decision at this point to a coin is not able to decide and puts his fate into the hands of other people.

Bottom line: Deciding with system is a quick way to make actively progress in VUCA times. The way from the problem/ goal specification, to an understanding of the situation, the creation of selection possibilities, the anticipation of the future, to the actual decision is moving faster or somewhat slower depending on the size of the task. If a decision takes months, the whole thing is needless, since the world has already moved on. Deciding with system offers a structure that allows decisive executives to make quick advances.