Foreseeing Inadvertent Effects of a Decision
Sometimes a crystal ball would come in really handy for forecasting the results of a decision. In the absence of a crystal ball, the next best thing is to expand your thinking and broaden your perspective. The ability to see the entire landscape of possible outcomes and consequences — even ones that obscure possibilities — after a decision is implemented is a real skill and an advantage.
How can you see ahead and build in possible outcomes into your decision-making? Here are a few suggestions:
Explore the pros and cons of the decision. Exploring the pros and cons gives you a heads-up on how the decision may play out either way. For example, hiring short-term or temporary employees is a convenient way to bring on resources when you need them, but the downside is a lack of loyalty on both sides.
Look for the relationship between a decision you’re about to make and its wider impact on your reputation or what you are trying ultimately to achieve. The key is to understand who the decision will affect and how. Figure out what the shareholders’ vested interest in the result is and how they will feel about it.
How your clients or employees or suppliers feel about a decision dictates their response. It’s emotional. You can’t argue against feelings with facts. Instead, consider their degree of support for your decision from the start. Your goal isn’t to convince anyone; it’s to understand how and why people care about the decision you’re making.
Do so, and you’ll gain support for what you want to do, or you’ll gain insight into why you won’t get the support you’re hoping for.
Map out scenarios. Look into the future and examine what may happen if the decision is made and implemented. When you look at the different scenarios, you’ll see options and alternatives where you previously thought none existed.
Intuit the future. What’s your gut feeling for where this decision will lead? Intuitive foresight is a quality of visionaries. Think of Walt Disney.
Develop your ability to perceive the interconnectivity and interrelationships of all aspects of the decision, as well as the decision’s direct and indirect consequences. You can gain insight into interconnectivity and interrelationships by observing nature, the ultimate example of systems thinking.
At every level in nature, from microenvironments to macroenvironments, things are connected in such a way that a change in one area produces ripple effects that spread throughout the system. When the natural ecosystem of both living (plants, animals, and microorganisms) and nonliving (soil, water, air, and so on) factors isn’t healthy, animals and plants die.
Companies are ecosystems of living (employees) and nonliving (capital assets) elements working together. By seeing how one thing is connected to another, you can better recognize the interdependence of all the individual elements and, as a result, better anticipate how decisions affect those interrelationships.