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3 Simple But Effective Frameworks for Making Better Decisions

Read Time: 4 minutes 13 seconds

We're pretty terrible decision-makers.

GIF of cat playing and winning shell game

Emotion. Biases. Mistakes. Politics. Laziness. We get in our own way—a lot.

And while I could give you yet another list of cognitive biases, I wanted to push past understanding what disrupts our thinking and into practical methods that we can use to make better decisions.

Awareness of these biases is critical. And simply being less confident is a meaningful step towards better decisions.

But we don't want to just understand the decisions we made.

We want to apply these lessons to decisions we've yet to make.

Here are three frameworks I've refined over the years.

  • Operating Principles

  • Decision Journal

  • Daily Answer Drip

I breakdown each one below.

Management Practice?

Unfortunately, leaders don't get do-overs. There is no practice before making big decisions or having hard conversations.

But there is help. And proven systems.

Leaders who completed the MGMT Accelerator said it was worth 23x what they paid. Pretty decent return on investment for 12 hours of work.

And now we've added two modules:

  1. How to Diagnose Problems to Root Cause

  2. Amplifying Your Culture with Your Cadence

On October 5th, we kick off our 15th cohort of the MGMT Accelerator and the last one for 2023. 

We'll meet live for 90 minutes twice weekly over 4 weeks and build your tailored management system with ~50 peer leaders.

Operating Principles

Perhaps the biggest gift I got from working at Bridgewater was learning the leverage that comes from principles-based decision-making.

We'd take the lessons from how we wanted to operate and what we've learned to be true, write them down, and then agree to use them when making future choices.

That doesn't mean they won't evolve. But operating this way allowed for two things:

  1. Shared language

  2. Compounding of knowledge

And it's not just Bridgewater that operates this way.

Netflix, Stripe, and Amazon have all been built on well-understood (and public) Operating Principles.

So how can you identify yours?

I gave a detailed blueprint for building your team's magnetic culture a few months back.

But I'd refer back specifically to these 6 six questions:

  • How do we interact?

  • How do we keep score?

  • How do we communicate?

  • How do we make decisions?

  • How do we provide feedback?

  • How do we do the right thing?

When I ran this with a struggling team several years ago, I asked our junior members to take the lead in answering them. They were closest to the frontline work and furthest from the theoretical guidelines senior leadership should abide by. And if they felt ownership over the principles guiding their decisions and inspiring them, I hoped morale and performance would improve.

And what they put together did just that. It was aligned with the company culture. It was specific to our circumstances and context. They were sharp, memorable, and clear.

What might feel clear and intuitive in your mind will only be sharpened by writing it down and having others you trust test it.

Can Startups Attract A-Players?

Hint: Yes, they can.

This Thursday, March 30th, I'm speaking at HustleFund's Founder Summit. Join over 1,000 early-stage founders who are scaling from six to seven figures. We'll focus on the strategies and tactics to work smarter, not harder.

And I'll go deeper into the role your Operating Principles can play. Free to join.

Decision Journal

Here is where I think our biases and laziness conspire to trick us.

We're faced with a decision. We review the data. We get input from the team. We weigh the pros and cons. And then we go with our instincts.

Those decisions play out over weeks, months, and even years. And two bad things happen:

  1. We never revisit the decisions. Was it good or bad? What was knowable that we missed?

  2. We had a tendency to fold data we learned after the fact into our old decisions. We're excellent at revisionist history.

But what if we could guard ourselves against both of these problems?

Take a few minutes each time you make a meaningful decision and record your logic and the expected outcome.

Then once each quarter, carve out an hour to review the list for any past decisions that have played out. Be brutally honest with yourself. Then use those lessons to fold into your future choices.

You might even consider refining your Operating Principles.

Daily Answer Drip

We've all had that employee who goes from being a rock to unmoored seemingly overnight. Their performance drops as they question what they want to do with their life. Their energy drops and drags on the team. Their thoughts are a jumbled mess.

This simple framework is one I've used to untangle many people, myself included.

Picture of a folded piece of paper with answers on the left and questions on the right

Daily Answer Drip - MGMT Playbook

Here's how it works.

  • Fold a piece of paper in half.

  • Label the left column "What I Know" and the right "Questions I Have."

  • Exhaust your mind by filling up both sides. You should already feel better as our imagination often outruns our reality.

  • Now rank the questions based on which one seems more important to answer. Identify the smallest action that'll help you answer the first one. Take that action and write the answer in the left column.

  • Keep answering one question each day until you clear the page or gain clarity.

Free Template: If you’re more of a spreadsheet person, I’ve made it easy on you.

I have not found anyone who needed more than a couple of weeks to get back on track.

Note: I purposely did not offer you a template here. I have found that disconnecting and writing on paper helps focus and switch on a different part of the mind. Trust me.

Bonus Material

🦄Just the FACTS from Brian Bourque, author of Unicorn Growth Strategies.

🚀Set up accountability with the RAPID Decision-Making model from Bain.

⌚Make better time management decisions from Ali Abdaal.

📞Gain more confidence when making tough calls via First Round.

We Need Your Input

We want the MGMT Playbook to help you win. So help us help you.

Instead of a poll this week, I want to know what's stuck on your desk. Respond to this email with your biggest management challenge, and I'll pick one to cover in next week's playbook.

Help Us Grow

Our mission is to impact 1,000,000 leaders positively. If this playbook would help someone on your team make better decisions, please forward it to them.

And if someone forwarded this edition to you, please don't leave without hitting that Subscribe button now.

Thank you for reading. Appreciate you!


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