We have always had to make decisions based on imperfect, conflicting, and incomplete information.
Colin Powell had a rule of thumb about decision-making. He said that every time you face a tough decision, you should have no less than forty percent and no more than seventy percent of the information you need to make the decision. If you make a decision with less than forty percent of the information you need, you are shooting from the hip, and you will make too many mistakes.
We are in the less-than-forty-percent range at this moment, so the natural question is now what? How do we make a decision with so little reliable information?
The best option I see is to establish three decision-making factors and use them to guide us; they are a time frame, a vision, and a risk assessment.
The time frame I am using is based on four phases of the pandemic. Phase 1 was confusion and chaos. I have proclaimed that to have ended on May 1. We are now in Phase 2; stark reality, hard choices, risk-taking, and risk mitigation. Phase 3 is a recession and further disruption, and Phase 4 is a vaccine and sustained recovery.
Are these four phases right? I don’t know, but they are what I’m using to make decisions.
Next comes vision. I see a renaissance and new beginning that could allow all of us to make sense of the death, economic disaster, and chaos resulting from this pandemic. Hope, optimism, and a better future is what I’m banking on and looking forward to. It’s a choice, and this is my choice about what’s on the other side.
And finally, risk assessment. General Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA (among many other accomplishments), said risk = threat x vulnerability.
The threat and vulnerability are not evenly distributed, so each of us makes a decision based on how we assess our vulnerability (age, health conditions, financial resources, etc.) and the degree to which we believe COVID-19 poses a threat to us.
So... now what? As we wait for our governments, employers, personal networks, and other external factors to guide us, we must make our own decisions about now what.
We will never have perfect information. But we can have our criteria for how we move forward.
Join me and my guests on a Web series of interviews called “Now What...?” to hear what other leaders and business executives are doing and how they are answering the now what question for the organizations they lead.
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