When I heard that NASA spent millions of dollars trying to find a ball point pen that would withstand the challenges of space I didn't query it too much.
Until I heard that the Russians went with a pencil, that is.
What's wrong here?
While not being present in either decision-making process, it highlights the value of thinking hard before proceeding.
It might also point to the value of pushing ourselves to think through options, which was the topic of a client discussion this week.
We observed that providing a table with ticks and crosses to discuss a series of options is, although common, inadequate. It requires the audience to interpret the table rather than you sharing your insights about what it means.
So, this week I offer a framework to help you develop and chunk your criteria so you can avoid leaving your insights ‘on the table', if you'll pardon my pun.
I offer three steps to employ this idea:
- Familiarise yourself with the framework
- Think about how to use it
- Refer to an example.
Familiarise yourself with the framework. Here are the four considerations that I think need to be canvassed when evaluating options for solving problems:
Strategy – Does this option help us deliver against our strategy? If so, how? If not, why not?
Return – Does this option help us deliver a strong return? ‘Return' might be considered many ways. It might be purely a financial measure, or alternatively consider softer issues such as social or environmental returns.
Practicality – Is this option easy, or perhaps even possible, for us to implement?
Risks – Does this option raise risks that will be hard for us to mitigate against? Or not?
Think about how to use it. As with all frameworks, we can use them to generate and to evaluate sets of ideas by helping us identify and fill gaps in our thinking.
Frameworks such as this stimulate us to ask whether we have covered all relevant issues, and whether we have done so well or not.
It is then up to us to measure our options against each criteria, draw out what this means for our decision making and make appropriate recommendations.
The framework helps you prioritise each of your criteria so you can calibrate your tradeoffs more effectively.
Refer to an example. This is a set of criteria for evaluating a set of options relating to a case study, which we explored in a program MasterClass some time ago.
The class focused around options for solving a disagreement about the best way to run races close to the daylight savings changeover when days are short.
Note how I have grouped the different criteria that emerged from the the discussion about the options.
In doing so, the tradeoffs become apparent given the first and third options have the same number of ticks and crosses each.
This then leads us to make a tradeoff between return and strategy: which one is more important?
That way we can decide which option is better.