Fall in Love with Your Criteria for Better Decision Making

By Tom Davidson

This post is about making better decisions by evaluating your options more carefully, a.k.a: falling in love with your criteria before falling in love with your options!

This week’s blogs and newsletter have to do with making better decisions, and one of the best ways to do that is to evaluate your options more carefully. I call it falling in love with your criteria before falling in love with your options.

As a human resource professional, I’ve been involved in hundreds of hiring decisions and seen a particular fallacy play out many times. Here’s what happens. For whatever reason, people involved in the selection process “like” one candidate over another and are correctly asked for their opinions. Someone likes person X because she’s technically skilled in one particular area, while someone else prefers candidate Y because he would be a good “fit” for the team. The list of preferences and arguments is virtually endless.

In making the final decision, the various players are brought together to debate whom they should choose, and they end up verbally arm wrestling with each other about the best choice. They debate, advocate, and make their case for why person X, Y or Z should be chosen, which leads to someone coming out on top, as the “winner” when nobody really won the argument at all.

What’s wrong with this picture?
While the decision-makers might get lucky and make a good-enough choice, the process they used was faulty and risky.

The real debate should have been about the criteria against which the various candidates would be compared, because that would have made the final discussion much easier and higher quality. Moreover, the debaters would be more likely to reach consensus, have more ownership for the outcome (i.e., “buy-in”), and support the execution of the final decision with very few – if any – hard feelings about “losing” the debate.

Here are some examples of criteria that the hiring team might have predetermined, before comparing alternative candidates:

• Evidence of project management expertise related to their workplace
• A track record of using teams to solve problems
• Learning fast from on-the-job experience
• Good presentation skills
• Experience with a certain kind of software application

While my example uses a human resource selection decision as the example, the same principle applies in all management decisions. Fall in love with your criteria before you fall in love with your option. Here are some other applications:

• Choosing whether to buy or lease equipment
• Deciding between varied budgetary options
• Prioritizing among important tasks
• Making a plan of action
• Designing a meeting, retreat or conference

For more information on making better decisions, download Deciding How to Decide from my online tool kit for teams.

What are some other potential applications for falling in love with your criteria before falling in love with your option?

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