Several Hats to help ready you for decision making

As a Director, I was frequently asked to make decisions. Some relatively easy to decide, in good faith, whether it is appropriate for the company to take a particular course of action but some were quite difficult like moving a multimillion pound logistics warehouse, stock and people from one location to another while continuing customer support and expected service levels in the middle of a recession!

Decisions affect us and those around us, it is no wonder the weight of making these can be really demanding on us as well as exhausting!

Your approach may be quite stoic and attempting to change your usual thought process can be demanding. No matter whether you go at it with all the optimism in the world or with careful consideration of each element you can easily miss the opposites of your natural demeanor, ie if you are normally averse to risks, you may miss opportunities.

Personally, I go at things thinking all will work out well, and on occasions, they have not. This is predominantly brought about because I did not always look objectively at the decision to be made but opted for charging straight at it.

With age comes wisdom, luckily I am not that old that I can still learn and, hopefully, you feel the same way so here is an exercise called ‘6 Thinking hats’ (Edward de Bono, 1985) which help you to view a situation from different approaches one at a time.

Let us examine the how with what each colour hat represents:

  • WHITE ‘Information’ – The facts and available information. This hat wearer focuses on the facts, numbers, realities/certainties based on data presented and past trends. Assess learnings from this as well as gaps in knowledge.
  • RED ‘Emotions’ – Instinctive or intuitive gut reactions? States of emotional sensitivity (with or without justification). Unlike the White hat, this is about working to our emotional strengths or realising how others will react. Others may not understand the reasoning so Red hat wearers consider the emotional dynamics of the organisation and people therein.
  • YELLOW ‘Optimistic response’ – The logic applied or pursuing harmony. The upbeat side. Either you or members of the team who actually see the positive benefits should wear the Yellow hat. When already in the process, Yellow hats are also the motivators who will seek the positives.
  • BLACK ‘Logic/Discernment’ – Practical side. Black hat wearers seek reasons to be cautious or conservative. Look at what the potential negative outcomes may be or arise. They look at things defensively and put good arguments forward as to why it may not work or highlight the weak points.
  • GREEN ‘Creative’ – Provocation and stimulation seeking investigation into the creative or unknown side. Green hats think the big picture and are open to potential new ideas/concepts. They also promote ‘all’ ideas as legitimate and encourage people to think laterally as well as openly to the potential of an idea so it can be explored.
  • BLUE ‘Managing’ – What is the goal? What are we thinking about? Look at the bigger picture. This should be worn at the start and end. This is the process control/decision hat. In meetings, it is won by the chairperson. When ideas start to stagnate, they may turn to the Green hat way of thinking or should a nonplus demeanour set in, then they turn to the Yellow hat process.

All processes start and conclude with the Blue hat. The process may be run by a singular person or a team, regardless, each hat will be worn by an individual or as a group. For example, in Logistics, transport department may wish to take on the Green hat as they are frequently involved with problem solving of deliveries. The office team leader may consider the Red hat as decisions may affect the working team there etc.

This is a powerful technique when used to its full potential with an open approach. De Bono’s system allows all elements (including scepticism) to enter the arena without fear of immediately being thrown to the lions!

An all-round approach considering all angles will result in a complete understanding of the situation, and not simply our own blind-sided thought process. It allows the process to be fully opened but in a controlled manner with the ultimate outcome being well thought through with a solid conclusion.

Coaching to Success specialise in Red, Yellow, Green and Blue hats on the understanding someone knows what the Black and White areas are. We refer to this as the ‘Grey Area’ (my apologies once again, such a cliché) so if you would like to take the first steps towards making great decisions, start with an easy one and contact Neil on 07761 187238 or email, where you will be assured a warm, friendly welcome and the chance to discuss how we can help set a less turbulent path for the decisions to be made.

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