Where To Begin

Gerwig 2015-04-29

Communications and Decision-Making! Over and over I come back to these two. Today, it’s decision-making. Have you ever had a charcuterie board? Do you love them as much as I do? I don’t even know how to pronounce it properly but I know it’s a French culinary art that’s been around for several hundred years and I know that I almost always order one if it’s available.

While traveling through the Cincinnati airport, I stopped for a quick snack. A charcuterie board was just the right thing too. Not too heavy, not too light. Flavorful and fun. A good charcuterie board has an air of sophistication as well, even if I can’t properly pronounce it.

My charcuterie board had several cuts of meat (from whence the charcuterie board gets its name), pickles, spicy mustard, an onion, several bits of cheese, some fruit preserves, crackers, dried apricots, cranberries and toasted almonds. I also added an olive mix (not pictured). I was in heaven. This is my kind of eating. At least one of my “kinds.” I also enjoy hamburgers, pizza, bone-in ribeye, lasagna, reubens, salmon, green smoothies, and fresh fruit. In fact, I guess, simply put, I enjoy food. But a good charcuterie board isn’t something I come across every day. Perhaps you do, but not me. And when I do, it’s a real treat.

So as the waitress placed the board in front of me, my mouth started to water. Time to dig in. Well, truth be told, dig in sounds a bit too aggressive. You see a good charcuterie board is something to be savored a bit at a time. You don’t attack it. You dance with it. You have a bit and chat. You have a bit more and laugh. You have a bit more and reflect. A good charcuterie board can be enjoyed with friends or alone, but you don’t really “dig in.” Nonetheless, you have to start somewhere. Where to begin? That’s the million dollar question. Where to begin?

Do I start with the meat? And if so, which one? And with cheese? And mustard? With or without a cracker? You get the idea. I didn’t run the mathematical equation to quantify the number of combinations or permutations, but let’s just say it’s “a lot.” You can combine two items or three or four or five or six or seven or eight … or fifteen. I had 15 unique items on my charcuterie board. Did I mention it had roasted tomatoes? I won’t bother to tell you what order I selected, but I will tell you I ate everything on the board. And it was delicious.

Choosing what to eat, and in what order, made me think about decisions and the decision-making process we use. You see, we make thousands of decisions every day. Some are small, most are. But occasionally there are big decisions to make. Sometimes our “To Do” list includes major decisions mixed in with the minor. The question is “where to begin?” Here are some options for you to consider:

  1. Random – you don’t really have a rationale. You’re a person of action. You just pick something, anything, and dive right in.
  2. FIFO – First In, First Out. You select the item that went on your “To Do” list first. It’s kinda fair. You select the action or item that’s been waiting the longest, right?
  3. LIFO – Last In, First Out. You select the most recent item on your list. It hasn’t been there the longest, but it’s the freshest in your mind. And maybe the older actions are really needed anymore.
  4. Prestige – you select the action that will make you look good, the best. It’s the cool project or the action that will garner the most attention and organizational accolades.
  5. Cost – you select your actions based upon cost, usually the cheapest (especially if the cost is yours to bear).
  6. Time – you select those actions that are quick to complete. That way you can knock off several items and feel good about yourself.
  7. Requestor – you select the actions given to you by your boss or some other key stakeholder. After all, isn’t that how you get ahead in the organization?
  8. Organizational Goals – you select your actions based organizational goals or individual targets or strategic directives.
  9. Bonus – sequence or critical path. Perhaps a critical item on your list depends upon you completing two other actions first. Clearly you need to think about order, sequence and what’s on the critical path if there are multiple items that have interdependencies.

Despite a bit of sarcasm and humor, each of the above methods (except for Random) has some merit when you’re trying to decide where to begin. I find it best to consider multiple factors when deciding where to begin. For example, I might consider cost, organizational strategies, time and requestor. The next time, I might consider a different set of criteria when deciding where to begin. The key is to make a deliberate choice and know “why” you’re making the selection.

How do you choose which project to work on? Which action to take first? “Where to begin” is a critically important question. Make it deliberately. Know what your selection process is based upon. Be aware of why you’re making the decision and the inevitable trade-offs you’re making.

How about you? How do you choose what to work on? Are you aware of your selection criteria? Where do you begin?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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