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KEEP PRESSING ON… A PEP TALK TO ME (EP. 1)

Chiedu Ada Usifo Written by Chiedu Ada Usifo · 9 min read >

I am finally a EMBA student in LBS! I said to myself, when I read the acceptance email, from the Administrative Office of the Lagos Business School, in July 2021. I shared the good news with members of my family and work colleagues, they were so happy for me. And I could not wait to start lectures, in January 2022.

Now, it is almost 1 month ago since classes started and I am asking myself, did I mistakenly register for the MBA programme? This is an “Executive” Masters of Business Administration, with the least experienced entrants having a minimum of 7 years work experience. We are “big men and women,” senior management employees of major brands and Chief Executive Officers of “our own companies,” surely this syllabus was not meant for people light us? We are very busy people… with families! How can we be expected to do several group assignments and individual assignments in a week? What time will we have for our jobs and our businesses? Did I use my money to pay for mental and physical torture? This is certainly a hard, bitter-sweet experience, I cannot drop out, I will not give up, I need to keep pressing on. Ada, EMBA is an investment, there must be a ROI of invest and it must yield dividend. You are in the class of EMBA 27, did the people in EMBA 1 TO EMBA 26 have 2 heads? There must be some tips, somewhere, that could help me stay focused. Yes, there is, it is

Making Smart Choices
OUR DECISIONS SHAPE OUR LIVES.

Excerpted from
Smart Choices:
A Practical Guide for Making Better Decisions

BY
John S. Hammond, Ralph L. Keeney, Howard Raiffa

OUR DECISIONS SHAPE OUR LIVES. Made consciously or unconsciously, with good or bad consequences, they represent the fundamental tool we use in facing the opportunities, the challenges, and the uncertainties of life.

• Should I go to college? If so, where? To study what?
• What career should I pursue? What job should I take?
• Should I get married now, or wait? Should I have children? If so, when and how many?
• Where should I live? Should I trade up to a larger house? What can I contribute to my community?
• Which job candidate should I hire? What marketing strategy should I recommend for my company?
• I feel unfulfilled. Should I change jobs? Go back to school? Move?
• How should I invest my savings? When should I retire? To do what? Where?

Such questions mark the progress of our lives and our careers, and the way we answer them determines, to a large extent, our place in society and in the world. Our success in all the roles we play—student, worker, boss, citizen, spouse, parent, individual— turns on the decisions we make.

Making Decisions Is a Fundamental Life Skill

Some decisions will be fairly obvious—‘‘no-brainers.’’ Your bank account is low, but you have a two-week vacation coming up and you want to get away to someplace warm to relax with your family. Will you accept your in-laws’ offer of free use of their Florida beachfront condo? Sure. You like your employer and feel ready to move forward in your career. Will you step in for your boss for three weeks while she attends a professional development course? Of course.
But the no-brainers are the exceptions. Most of the important decisions you’ll face in life are tough and complex, with no easy or obvious solutions. And they probably won’t affect you alone. They’ll affect your family, your friends, your coworkers, and many others known and unknown. Making good decisions is thus one of the most important determinants of how well you meet your responsibilities and achieve your personal and professional goals. In short, the ability to make smart choices is a fundamental life skill.
Most of us, however, dread making hard decisions. By definition, tough choices have high stakes and serious consequences; they involve numerous and complex considerations; and they expose us to the judgments of others. The need to make a difficult decision puts us at risk of anxiety, confusion, doubt, error, regret, embarrassment, loss. No wonder we find it hard to settle down and choose. In living through a major decision, we suffer periods of alternating self-doubt and overconfidence, of procrastination, of wheel-spinning and flip-flopping, even of desperation. Our dis- comfort often leads us to make decisions too quickly, or too slowly, or too arbitrarily. We flip a coin, toss a dart, let someone else—or time—decide. The result: a mediocre choice, dependent on luck for success. It’s only afterwards that we realize we could have made a smarter choice. And by then it’s too late.

You Can Learn to Make Better Decisions

Why do we have such trouble? It’s simple: we don’t know how to make decisions well. Despite the importance of decision making to our lives, few of us ever receive any training in it. So we are left to learn from experience. But experience is a costly, inefficient teacher that teaches us bad habits along with good ones. Because decision situations vary so markedly, the experience of making one important decision often seems of little use when facing the next. How is deciding what job to take or what house to buy similar to deciding what school to send your children to, what medical treatment to pursue for a serious illness, or what balance to strike among cost, aesthetics, and function in planning a new office park?
It’s true: there’s often very little relationship between what you decide in one instance and what you decide in another. That does not mean, however, that you can’t learn to make decisions more successfully. The connection among the decisions you make lies not in what you decide, but in how you decide. The only way to really raise your odds of making a good decision is to learn to use a good decision-making process—one that gets you to the best solution with a minimal loss of time, energy, money, and compo- sure.
An effective decision-making process will fulfill these six criteria:

• It focuses on what’s important.
• It is logical and consistent.
• It acknowledges both subjective and objective factors and blends analytical with intuitive thinking.
• It requires only as much information and analysis as is necessary to resolve a particular dilemma.
• It encourages and guides the gathering of relevant information and informed opinion.
• It is straightforward, reliable, easy to use, and flexible.

A decision-making approach that addresses these criteria can be practiced on decisions major and minor—what movie to see, what car to buy, what vacation to take, what investment to make, what department head to hire, what medical treatment to pursue. And the more you use such an approach, the more efficient and effective it will become. As you grow more skilled and your confidence grows, making decisions will become second nature to you. In fact, you may find your friends and associates asking you for help and advice with their tough choices!

Use the PrOACT Approach to Make Smart Choices

This book provides you with a straightforward, proven approach for making decisions. It does not tell you what to decide, but it does show you how. Our approach meets the six criteria listed above. It helps you to see both the tangible and the intangible aspects of your decision situation more clearly and to translate all pertinent facts, feelings, opinions, beliefs, and advice into the best possible choice. Highly flexible, it is applicable to business and professional decisions, to personal decisions, to family decisions—to any decision you need to make.
One thing the method won’t do is make hard decisions easy. That’s impossible. Hard decisions are hard because they’re com- plex, and no one can make that complexity disappear. But you can manage complexity sensibly. How? Just like you’d hike up a mountain: one step at a time.
Our approach takes one step at a time. We have found that even the most complex decision can be analyzed and resolved by considering a set of eight elements (see below). The first five— Problem, Objectives, Alternatives, Consequences, and Tradeoffs— constitute the core of our approach and are applicable to virtually any decision. The acronym for these—PrOACT—serves as a re- minder that the best approach to decision situations is a proactive

The Eight Elements of Smart Choices


The worst thing you can do is wait until a decision is forced on you—or made for you.
The three remaining elements—uncertainty, risk tolerance, and linked decisions—help clarify decisions in volatile or evolving environments. Some decisions won’t involve these elements, but many of your most important decisions will.
The essence of the PrOACT approach is to divide and conquer. To resolve a complex decision situation, you break it into these elements and think systematically about each one, focusing on those that are key to your particular situation. Then you reassemble your thoughts and analysis into the smart choice. So, although our method may not make a hard decision easy, it will certainly make it easier.

There Are Eight Keys to Effective Decision Making

Let’s take a brief look at each of the elements of the PrOACT approach to see how they work and how they fit together.

Work on the right decision problem. What must you decide? Is it which health club to join? Or whether to join one at all as opposed to walking more or buying some home gym equipment? Is it who to hire to manage your company’s information systems department? Or whether you should even have an information systems department as opposed to outsourcing the function to an outside provider? The way you frame your decision at the outset can make all the difference. To choose well, you need to state your decision problems carefully, acknowledging their complexity and avoiding unwarranted assumptions and option-limiting prejudices.

Specify your objectives. Your decision should get you where you want to go. If you have to hire a new employee, do you want someone who’s a disciplined team player or a creative free spirit? Do you want a fresh perspective or solid experience? A decision is a means to an end. Ask yourself what you most want to accomplish and which of your interests, values, concerns, fears, and aspirations are most relevant to achieving your goal. Thinking through your objectives will give direction to your decision making.

Create imaginative alternatives. Your alternatives represent the different courses of action you have to choose from. Should you take sides in a family argument or stand aside from the rising tide of accusation and acrimony? Or should you seek a resolution palatable to everyone concerned? If you didn’t have different alternatives, you wouldn’t be facing a decision. But have you considered all the alternatives or at least a wide range of creative and desirable ones? Remember: your decision can be no better than your best alternative.

Understand the consequences. How well do your alternatives satisfy your objectives? Alternatives beckon and beguile, but be- yond them lie sometimes sobering, sometimes exciting consequences. Abandoning the corporate treadmill for your own sailboat chartering outfit in Aruba may sound enticing, but what would be the consequences for your spouse’s career, your school- age children, your aging parents, your cancer-prone skin? Assessing frankly the consequences of each alternative will help you to identify those that best meet your objectives—all your objectives.

Grapple with your tradeoffs. Because objectives frequently conflict with one another, you’ll need to strike a balance. Some of this must sometimes be sacrificed in favor of some of that. Your career is important to you, but so is your family. You may decide, therefore, to reduce your business travel or even to cut back on your hours at the office. You’ll lose some career momentum and possibly some income, but you’ll gain time with your spouse and your kids. In most complex decisions, there is no one perfect alternative. Different alternatives fulfill different constellations of objectives. Your task is to choose intelligently among the less-than- perfect possibilities. To do so, you need to set priorities by openly addressing the need for tradeoffs among competing objectives.

Clarify your uncertainties. What could happen in the future, and how likely is it that it will? To decide how much money to set aside for your daughter’s college education fund, you must assess a number of uncertainties. Will she apply to an Ivy League university or a state college? Will she be accepted? Are her academic, artistic, or athletic skills likely to earn her a scholarship? Will she want to work while studying? Will she need a car? Uncertainty makes choosing far more difficult. But effective decision making demands that you confront uncertainty, judging the likelihood of different outcomes and assessing their possible impacts.

Think hard about your risk tolerance. When decisions involve uncertainties, the desired consequence may not be the one that actually results. A much-deliberated bone marrow transplant may or may not halt cancer. A low-risk investment in municipal bonds could result in major financial losses. People vary in their tolerance of such risks and, depending on the stakes involved, in the risk they will accept from one decision to the next. A conscious awareness of your willingness to accept risk will make your decision-making process smoother and more effective. It will help you to choose an alternative with the right level of risk for you.

Consider linked decisions. What you decide today could influence your choices tomorrow, and your goals for tomorrow should influence your choices today. Thus many important decisions are linked over time. A highway commissioner may decide to buy land now to create options for accommodating possible increases in traffic in the future. He thus circumvents potential jumps in land values or increases in community resistance which could foreclose future options. The key to dealing effectively with linked decisions is to isolate and resolve near-term issues while gathering the information needed to resolve those that will arise later. By sequencing your actions to fully exploit what you learn along the way, you will be doing your best, despite an uncertain world, to make smarter choices.

The eight PrOACT elements provide a framework that can profoundly redirect your decision making, enriching your possibilities and increasing your chances of finding a satisfying solution. Before discussing each element in the coming chapters, we’ll begin here with a brief and somewhat simplified case study that shows the PrOACT process at work.
With the information derived for this case study above, yes I can stay focused and finish my EMBA programme

Good talk Ada, I am struggling to stay awake and blog at the same time. This is one of the hardest things, I have done in my life so far, but I need to keep my eyes on the price. Each day brings me closer, to having the coveted EMBA degree. So, I will still keep pressing on.

#Nche EMBA 27

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