How to make a decision (George W. Bush)

Last week I finished reading Decision Points by George W. Bush. It is 512 pages of great reading.

Regardless of how you feel about the man’s politics I think you will find the behind the scenes reading to be insightful and a helpful guide to making substantive decisions.

In the book he discusses the issue of stem cell research that he faced and the process that he worked through to arrive at a decision. This seven point decision making process is a helpful one regardless of context.

  1. Clarify guiding principles
  2. Listen to experts on all sides of the matter
  3. Reach a tentative conclusion
  4. Run it past knowledgeable people
  5. Finalize the decision
  6. Explain it to the people
  7. Set up a process for implementation

Have you thought through your decision making process? After reading this, I spent some time reflecting on mine and realized that some of these components play a role in every decision. For instance, “Clarify guiding principle” plays a role in deciding where you will eat lunch. If you are committed to a healthy diet, it is not likely that you will swing into McDonalds for a greasy burger and salty fries. Your guiding principle of healthy eating will shape your decision to pack a lunch or eat something healthy.

Some of these components play a role in every decision, but the difference between most decisions and great decisions lies in the components that we may either overlook, rush past, or be unaware of. For instance, “Set up a process for implementation.” If you make a great decision with potential for great impact but it never gets implemented… what good is that decision?

Great decisions start with clarity regarding your non-negotiables and are cemented in reality by a process with an eye to execution (e.g. what steps are we going to take to move this decision from paper to reality?).

As you review this seven step process, what components do you think are the most likely to be left out of the decision making process? Are there any that you think are more important than another? Why?

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