Focus on the big picture while making decisions, one is often admonished, so that the smaller details might not be missed, or worse still, be mistaken as the ultimate goal. Similarly, there is the maxim to cure the root cause and the symptoms will be no more.
Furthermore, approaching decision-making via a systematic process of in-depth analysis and critical evaluation, even when it may produce less than satisfactory result is more valuable than securing results via deploying ad hoc methods. While the process leading up to an outcome in a systematic analysis can be reviewed, improved upon, completely overhauled or jettisoned, in comparison, the ad hoc process leaves little or no possibility for improvement because it is not adaptable to review. To emphasize, the ad hoc approach does not lend itself to repeatability by same actor, or worse still, different actors. In contrast, possibility of scaling up or out results from an ad hoc process is plainly impracticable, therefore.
The foregoing thoughts are the very significant takeaways for me in the Analysis of Business Problems, we so fondly refer to as ABP. In fact, the same approach can be used evaluate any problem or decision making of any scale outside of business. In the following paragraphs, I would briefly enunciate an outline of a framework for analyzing business problems as well as making business decisions.
Know the Context
Firstly, context is everything. Decisions should be made in context. Similarly, in appraising business problems, and in fact any problem, understanding the prevailing business environment within which to situate the problem is crucial. Once context is properly appraised, there is a better chance that the nature of the problem and the required decision to be made might be better put in focus and commonly appreciated. Context equally takes into consideration the organizational culture, shared experience and enterprise business process assets, amongst others.
Establish the Objective of the Decision Making
Secondly, establish the desired objective that must be achieved by the decision. This is where to anchor the big picture. This is where the root cause must be isolated from the secondary causes and their associated symptoms as well their readily seen effects. For instance;
- Low sales could be symptomatic of poor product design, low quality product offering, Sales Force that are not confident to push the product, etc.
- Sales Force that are not confident to push the product could be as result of inadequate training, quality of available manpower as a result mass migration, ineffectual marketing practices, etc.
One has to work through the maze of winding relationships of cause, effects and symptoms to pinpoint the root cause. Once identified, the objective of the decision to be taken or problem to be solved will have been obvious. An unfitting objective will eventually lead to less than satisfactory decision outcome.
Develop the Decision Alternatives
Thirdly, derive alternative solutions by which to achieve the objective. It is important that the solution alternatives are suitable and robust and can potentially lead to achieving the stated objective. At the minimum, there has to be two alternatives. An alternative can also be an evaluation of the present situation to decide whether to maintain status quo.
Develop Criteria & Evaluate Each Decision Alternative
Fourthly, develop a set of well thought out criteria by which to evaluate each of the decision alternatives. The criteria can be quantitative as well as qualitative. The criteria can be graded according to their relative implication to the achieving the objective. Finally, assess each decision alternative by the set of criteria. Select the decision alternative that better meets the set of criteria.
Make a Decision, Take Action
Lastly, take a decision, develop an action plan, implement the decision and review progress. Review any part of the process, if need be, especially when the decision alternative does not seem to be addressing the objective or that the objective may not have been correctly identified in the first place.