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Decision Quality Starts with the Exam Question

Decision traps – we’ve all stumbled into them at some point. These pitfalls can stem from our biases, organizational issues, lack of awareness about our agenda, or simply lacking decision-making skills.

The first step in quality decision-making is “framing,” figuring out the question you mean to ask and answer. It’s useful to think of this as declaring your “exam question.”

There are at least three different traps that can spoil your frame:

  1. The “Jumping In” trap: This is when you dive straight into solutions without properly framing the problem. It’s like putting the cart before the horse – you’re well served to slow down and make sure you’re asking the right questions first.
  2. The “Comfort Zone” trap: We tend to gravitate towards familiar problems because they’re easier to solve. The downside? We might end up with a skewed view of the situation, focusing on data that confirms our existing beliefs and overlooking contradictory information.
  3. The “Avoiding Conflict” trap: Framing is the ideal time for healthy debate. It’s crucial not to let a poor frame slide just because challenging it might be uncomfortable or inconvenient. Sometimes, we need to have those tough conversations to get it right.

These traps can pop up at various stages of the decision-making process, but they’re particularly common during the framing stage. Recognizing them is the first step in avoiding them.