How Outcome Based Decision Making Can Get You Through a Crisis

One of the unfortunate facts of life is that, more often than not, we’re forced to make some of our most important decisions under pressure. Whether that pressure comes from time constraints, high emotion or some kind of crisis, it’s just not a good time to successfully arrive at good decisions. But whether you like it or not, there’s a good chance that at some point in either your personal or professional life, you will be confronted with tough choices under less than ideal circumstances.

So how can we try to make sure that the decisions we’re making in a crisis are the right ones? The answer is to focus on the outcome.

Our brains are hard-wired to only consider immediate survival goals when we’re under pressure. This is great when you’re being chased by a grizzly, but not as useful when you’ve got two hours to think through the implications of a hostile takeover bid for your company.

Here’s a few steps that you can take to shift your brain away from the grizzly and back to the boardroom.

1. Be Ready

The best way to ensure a good decision is to plan for it. Every organization should have a crisis management plan, and every individual should have an emergency plan. But often, both organizations and individuals make the mistake of hypothesizing the crisis rather than envisaging a way out of it. It’s important to remember that the type of crisis doesn’t matter, so long as you know the outcome needed for success. Once you know the outcome you need, taking the steps backwards to your decision will be a lot clearer.

2. Trust Your Crystal Ball

Once you’ve worked out your outcomes, you’ll need to do a bit of informed fortune telling to predict the consequences of your decision. The best way to do this is by thinking through where each of your options put you (or your organization) in the future. Try to predict the consequences in a day, a week, a year from now. It’s easy to get sidetracked by thinking about the short-term consequences when you’re under pressure, but the impact of your decision in the long term is where your perspective should lie.

3. Commit

The thing about making decisions under pressure isn’t just that they’re hard to make in the first place, it’s that they’re hard to commit to. I think everyone knows the feeling of decision remorse, where the words ‘did I do the right thing’ seem to be permanently attached to your consciousness. The best way to overcome these feelings is to start implementing your decision as soon as possible.

You can never totally remove the emotional responses that come from being under pressure, but you can minimize the impact that they have on your decisions. So next time you’re faced with a big decision, instead of focusing on madly putting out the fire, try to focus on building a long term solution. It might sound like semantics, but you’ll be surprised by the shake-up it gives your mind.

Header courtesy of JasonLangheine

North Korea: The Antithesis of Community

He even looks crazy...

Here at the Gumboot, we tend to spend a lot of time talking about which communities are getting it right. Be it the organic chocolate makers of the world, the groovy child-run/children’s hospital supporters, the West End… I could go on and on. We try to keep it positive, hip and upbeat. For the most part, I think we’re successful.

A few days ago, co-editor John Horn emailed me asking if I’d be able to post something for today. No problem, I replied. Will it be anything “controversial” he wondered? Only if something really “grinds my gears”, I responded. Well, something really did grind my gears this week, so much so that I ended up talking about it with just about anyone who would listen to me. No its not the BP spill. That’s sickening, sad, horrible and in a tragic way – comprehensible.

What’s really got me frustrated these days is North Korea. In case you’ve not been keeping up with some of the latest international affairs, on March 26 a South Korean Cheonan warship was sunk by a North Korean submarine who got trigger happy (or more likely was ordered to get trigger happy) in international waters. The unprovoked attack killed 46 South Korean sailors. The South Koreans, being rational people, decided to investigate. An international delegation of experts were called in, scoped out the torpedo and wreckage of the ship and came to the undeniable conclusion that the torpedo fired was North Korean. In response, the North Korean beat their chest like gorillas in the mist, denied everything and threatened “all out war” if any sanctions or repercussions were to come their way. This isn’t the first time the North Koreans done crazy and horrible things. In the past they’ve shot down airline jets, kidnapped Japanese people and blustered more than any weak, poverty stricken country ever should.

According to a recent New York Times editorial, the internal political dynamics of North Korea are some of the driving forces behind these blustery and antagonistic actions. According to the Times’ sources, North Korea’s erratic leader, Kim Jong-il is in a power struggle to ensure that his youngest son succeeds him. Apparently US intelligence believes Kim may have ordered the attack to prove his willingness to take on South Korea and its Western allies. Meanwhile the Chinese, North Korea’s principle (dare I say only?) ally stands mutely by, counselling restraint. According to Times, the Chinese principle aim is to avoid any crisis that might unleash huge refugee flows across their borders.

It all seems a bit ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I get the international politics of it all. But when you drill down you get a scenario that seems remarkably like a playground bully. A bully pushing another kid out of the blue. And when the victim threatens to push back, the bully pulls a knife and says “try it and I’ll cut you a new necktie”. The bully’s parent shows up (parent not parents, because back in the late 50s early 60s, the bully’s folks got into a messy divorce and haven’t been talking ever since) along with the school principal. The school principal says there needs to be some repercussions for unprovoked bullying. The parent says, let’s all calm down and not jump to any conclusions. The main thing is to be calm and let’s smooth all this over and forget it ever happened.

That sort of thing shouldn’t fly on the playground, and it certainly shouldn’t happen at a global level among supposedly rational policy makers and leaders. South Korea continues to be a team player and as things seem to continue to heat up, North Korea seems to increasingly display just how erratic its regime is. It makes wish there was something that could be done – some repercussion that the Gods know the North Korea regime and “Dear Leader” have coming. After all responsibility and playing nice with your neighbors (even those who you might think are “douchbags”) is an implicit part of community.

The South Koreans get it. They’ve been real team players in the international arena, taking a kick in teeth and doing as Jesus would (sort of). But the North seems to be incapable of understanding that you get what’s coming. If you’re a paranoid, deceptive, violent little regime, odds are the more rational democratically minded countries in your neighborhood will probably NOT be that friendly towards you. Wonders never cease. Obviously cause and effect seems a concept Kim continues to struggle with. Sadly, China doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to help him and his cronies figure it out either. And that can be very dangerous for all of us in the long run.