Some decisions we make are easy: in our minds, there is only one possible response. Of course, these vary from person to person: your idea of a no-brainer (‘would you like the winning numbers to this week’s lottery?’) may throw someone else into confusion!
Many of the decisions we face will involve us having to consider our options and evaluate the consequences of those options:
- new job or internal promotion?
- house move or house renovation?
- Prince Harry or George Clooney?
When working with clients facing important decisions, I work through a cost/benefit analysis with them, using a simple form to list the pros and cons to see whether they balance each other out. You can click here to see an example of one we used in a recent session: example of a cost/benefit analysis form (you may need to rotate the view).
Philip (names have been changed to protect the innocent!) was considering whether or not to enrol in an external training course: he reported that he felt unsure as to how his family would handle him having to give up more free time, whether or not the course would be beneficial in the long run, and was basically bogged down in a quagmire of quandary.
Firstly we weighed up what was in it for him (increased knowledge, feeling of personal development, the chance to meet other marketeers from outside his company) versus what it was going to cost him (both time and money, in his case).
Then we turned to the impact this course of action would have on Philip’s colleagues, the business, his friends and family: he felt the course would help him to make a greater contribution to his team and he’d be able to train others. On the other hand, his team would need to cover for him, he wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with his friends and family and he’d need to arrange some extra childcare. Whilst we can’t be sure of the impact on others, it’s worth taking some time to put ourselves in the shoes of our peers, key stakeholders, family and friends as it can often shed useful light on the issue.
Thirdly, we considered what enrolling on the course would enable Philip to do (progress and potentially be promoted) and what it would prevent him doing (spend as much time with his family or working on his fitness).
Having spent an hour or so extracting and clarifying these thoughts, Philip said he felt freed up and was ready to come up with a plan for how to proceed. Following our session, he took the actions he’d set himself and, I’m pleased to report, starts his course early next year.
If you’d like a blank copy of the cost/benefit analysis sheet for your personal use, leave me a comment below and I’ll happily email you one.
Today’s pebble for you to ponder:
How could you use cost/benefit analysis to help you make a decision?
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we can work together?