A Technique for Decision Making Confidence
Engineers aren’t always confident about making a decision. Despite being able to reason well, they hesitate when it comes time to debate or push for an approach.
After a decision is made, they might be kicking themselves—I was thinking the same thing! I should’ve just said it.
There’s plenty of reasons why someone might not take a stance in a meeting, including:
- They don’t want to sound dumb.
- They’re shy or have trouble asserting themself.
- Someone else makes their point before them.
Some reasons are internal, others are influenced by peers and the community.
Regardless of your specific reasons, here’s a low-risk technique to help build your decision making muscle:
Write Your Hypothesis
Before the group makes a decision, jot down what decision or course of action you would go for. Also, write down what you believe are the relevant, important points for and against that decision.
You don’t have to write paragraphs or anything formal. These are just notes for you—so you can compare your thoughts from before the group decision to the actual decision.
This essentially shifts your decision making to being a bit more proactive. Rather than reacting to points that others are bringing up, you’re forming opinions about important questions in advance. Questions like:
- How does this recommendation fit the context?
- Why do you prefer this approach over an alternative?
- What assumptions or commitments does this approach make?
Again, this is just a forcing function for you to have an initial, loosely-held opinion. It doesn’t matter if you are spot on, change your mind, or learn that you were wildly off base. No one else will know what you wrote.
Evaluate Your Stance
As the group makes a decision, you’ll want to evaluate your thinking against the group’s.
The goal isn’t to be right. The goal is to find something that you missed before—that’s a potential learning.
- You may have overlooked or missed some important context.
- You might have understood the context, but interpreted it differently than others.
- You may have picked a good approach, but with a completely different rationale.
These are all considerations that you can take next time. How are others making their decisions? What are they considering? All of this helps to fine-tune your own decision making.
Do note that you might be a bit biased! You might find yourself fighting for the initial stance you took. It’s good to debate—just remember to engage with and debate ideas, rather than debating for the sake of not being wrong.
At some point, you’ll find that you are preemptively identifying important points and making good calls. You don’t have to be perfect, but you can trust that your judgment is in a good direction.
By then, if you haven’t already, it’s time to start speaking up! You have the evidence that you’re reasoning well (you wrote it down), the remaining piece is to share your rationale with others.