The Least Worst Option

presidentialOn November 8th, millions of Americans will take to the polls to elect the next President...or maybe not. I've been able to vote since 1981 and I can't remember a time where the choices, both Democrat and Republican, have been as poor as this group. I find it unbelievable that these four finalists are the best America has to offer. If there ever was a time where an option to vote for "none of the above" was available, this is it. I recently spent time in the UK and most of my conversations with the Brits focused on why we can't find one decent American to run for office. I was somewhat embarrassed to have to agree with my UK colleagues. Over dinner one evening I was asked, point blank "are you intending to vote and if so, who will you vote for?" My response: "the least worst option." 

So, why am I writing about the presidential election and what does this have to do with consulting and Citisoft? Directly, not much—although the financial markets will certainly have a reaction to our next President, which, in turn, could influence the spending behaviors of our clients. However, when you look at the big picture, there is a common thread within our industry: How do you make difficult decisions when the options don't present a clear solution?

One thing I try to remind myself when faced with this situation is that most decisions can be undone—not all, but most. The bottom line is, you will never know if a decision is right or wrong until you actually commit to a choice. So with that, before I make a decision I first need to understand if I'm making a subjective or objective decision. To me, this is an important distinction since it will have a significant impact on my approach.

If I'm making a subjective decision, I'll begin by reviewing my options and spend some time understanding each in more detail separately. I'll rephrase questions in my mind that will allow me to think about the alternatives from two to three different perspectives. Most importantly, I'll listen to my instincts, which more often than not, provide the optimal decision or—put another way—the decision I can live with.

If I'm making an objective decision, I'll take a more structured approach. I'll start by understanding what is driving the decision, who will be impacted, and what data points or supporting information is available to consider. I'll then review the public ramifications to the decision—how will my decision impact my employees or my clients. I'll conduct a risk/reward profile to understand whether the benefits are worth the costs or more importantly, the risks associated with the decision. Finally, I'll ask myself one final question: Is it the right thing to do?

If there's one thing I've learned over the years when making tough decisions, you'll never question yourself if you believe that you made the right choice. Making decisions that the majority supports doesn't require a lot of courage. On the other hand, making a decision that one believes is the right choice in the face of controversy is what separates leaders from followers.

I know that many of our clients face difficult decisions that may be controversial in undertaking new projects or initiatives. But with a calculated approach, it may be easier than it appears to find a decision that feels right.

And if all else fails, I suggest choosing the least worst option…