Managing complex decisions

By definition complex decisions are often characterized by a handful of elements and dynamics:

  • Multiple and perspective/agenda diverse stakeholders and participants
  • Multiple overt and covert decision making criteria
  • Multiple not completely perfect options for consideration
  • Multiple levels of knowledge about the options and their use contexts
  • Multiple unknowns and unknowables relative to choice consequences

My favorite approach is polarity management. We take the two or three best options available and with each engage the following five conversations together as a group of key stakeholders who are either making or advising the ultimate decision.

  • Identifying all the potential benefits of each option considered
  • Identifying all the potential problems with each option considered
  • Identifying what could minimize the problems listed
  • Identifying what could optimize the benefits listed
  • Identifying the best approach going forward based on what emerges

The power of the process is in how it gets everyone literally on the same page, optimizing the group's chance of coming up with an approach that everyone can support, and often will support because they move forward as authentic collaborators rather than competitors.