Optimizing, Settling, and Satisficing: Making Efficient Decisions
Everyone wants to make good decisions. Nobody shows up to a meeting, raises their hand, and says, “Please, let’s fail to make decisions today and thereby place the company and our jobs in jeopardy.” And yet a lot of teams approach decision making in ways which may do exactly that. People often confuse making a right decision with making an optimal decision. You hear the misguided thinking when people talk about making the right choice instead of a right choice.
Searching for optimal decisions is usually impractical. When you have limited information and available options which don’t mirror your ideas of perfection, “optimizing” can leave you wandering in circles. The more variables you try to optimize (cost, time, visual appeal, consensus, etc.) the worse this becomes. People involved in the decision making process begin to tire as good options are rejected for failing to optimize one or more variables, and the cost of deciding quickly outweighs the benefits.
Satisficing is usually a better decision making strategy. You want to satisfy critical requirements while achieving sufficient (not optimal) results. Satisfy + suffice = satisfice.
To satisfice, you need to start with clear requirements. Requirements are clear when you can answer yes or no to whether or not they have been fulfilled. The more requirements you have, the harder it will reach a decision.Second, you need to set clear expectations of the outcome. You are not looking for the best of all possible results but rather a result that is good enough.
Finally, when you reach a solution which meets your requirements, stop looking for solutions. If the decision achieves your expected outcomes, celebrate without reservation. Stopping the search is the most important part of satisficing, because it saves energy and allows you to enjoy definite success.
Satisficing is not settling. Settling means choosing what you already have simply because it is easy and available. Optimizing often leads to settling, because the process exhausts the people involved. When the team is too tired to care, they tend to reach for quick solutions, without careful attention to goals and objectives. Satisficing, on the other hand, focuses on a “good enough” solution while working toward specific goals.
- Optimizing: Create an advertising campaign which increases sales as much as possible.
- Settling: Use the campaign most people sort of like, because the team is tired of revisiting the same problem.
- Satisficing: Create an online advertising campaign for under $8,000 + $5,000 per month which is in keeping with your brand image. You will continue the campaign so long as it yields a 150% increase in leads per month above baseline. To ensure success, you will test the campaign before the full-scale release.
The purpose of satisficing is to find a decision that works well enough, without spending the energy to find mythical “perfect” solutions. This becomes a strategy of optimal efficiency without sacrificing realistic goals. Efficiently reaching goals is what TRO is all about.