Five Questions for Making Decisions

Making decisions

Every day we rely upon our habits over actively making decisions, and on the whole for very good reasons. From an evolutionary perspective the cost of a decision is high; spending the energy and time to make countless decisions every a day is impractical. Like lots of our instincts that have been great for survival historically, they’re not great for life in the twenty first century. As technology propels us forward faster and faster, making a poor decision can mean finding ourselves off course by miles. Here are five questions to help you be more mindful about the decisions you want to make consciously.

What are the consequences of making / not making the decision?

Sometimes decisions don’t need to be made at the point you first start considering them. Make the decision at the last responsible moment. Give yourself as much time as can be allowed to learn more.

Although we typically use the word consequences to mean something unpleasant, I prefer to think of consequences as things that are observable, and have an identifiable causal link (even if they aren’t always predictable). Use what you know and the time you have to consider the consequences of letting things run their cause, or being more active in your involvement.

What are my duties?

These go all the way from yourself, to your family and friends, your country, and humanity and the world. We are part of the universe, not separate living inside like a building. What we do to others we are also doing to ourselves. These factors should be taken into account when making an important decision.

In the business world, this may be legal regulatory requirements or codes of ethics from your professional body. If you hold a position of responsibility within the organisation, consider the duties you have to those who the decision will affect. Seek out these people and ask them what their opinions are to help you have a wider contextual understanding.

Will it work?

Probably the most important question of the five, and yet potentially the hardest to understand. When the consequences are easy to understand then this question will be the easiest to answer. When the decision is around a more innovative problem is when things become trickier.

Does it align with my values?

To answer this that it helps to understand what your values are. To think about these you can ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there any behaviours that I’ve purposefully adopted? Why have I chosen to adopt them?
  • Why have I chosen to work (or not work) at the organisation(s) I have during my career?
  • At the end of the day, what do I look forward to most?

To act in a way that goes against our values, is to act against ourselves. Which leads nicely into the final question,

Can I live with it?

Will you be able to sleep tonight if you do this thing? Will you regret it in ten years time if you don’t? We’ve all made decisions and done things when we were younger that are hard to live with later, but we forgive ourselves because of our age at the time. Part of our personal, continuous improvement should include looking for ways to not fall into traps we’ve seen before or ones that we can predict. Listen to what your gut is telling you on this one.

Consciously Making Decsisions

It’s not an easy process to keep oneself mindful. Every neuron in our nervous system reacts automatically it those around it. The emergence of conciousness allows us the ability to control these impulses and be aware of our decision making and the impacts we have. To use this gift takes strength of will, but can itself be made an automatic habit given continued practice.

The Significance of Committing to Your Values

iterative introspection

During moments of stress in the workplace our anxieties can rise and result in us behaving in ways we would prefer not to. Our normal, instinctual reactions are unlikely to be the best for ourselves or our organisations. I knew a manager who found that when something unexpected happened to them, they overreacted. This manager, let’s call her Jane, came to me as she found herself unhappy with how she handled stressful situations. Together we came up with a plan. Continue reading “The Significance of Committing to Your Values”

Overcoming Management’s Perceived Disempowerment During Agile Transformations

Since my career delivered me to the world of agile, I have mainly worked with organisations that were in the process of an agile transformation. This is a very different environment to any other. When an organisation makes any kind of large scale cultural change it is almost inevitable that it will face problems from almost everyone who wasn’t involved (or felt they were involved) in the decision to transition. When we as a community talk about agile, we typically talk about the empowerment of this or that group. In this post I’m going to explore what empowering a team means from a middle management level, which in my experience is often the level where agile transformations can fail spectacularly. Continue reading “Overcoming Management’s Perceived Disempowerment During Agile Transformations”


This is another post resulting from my recent review of the notes I made when taking my CSM course. I love a good mnemonic. There are plenty of words that I can only spell by remembering some strange sentence. I especially like it when a mnemonic relates to the data that one’s trying to remember, and INVEST is certainly that. Continue reading “INVEST”