Opinion based decision making and your IT career

Within technical disciplines such as engineering, IT, medicine and science, most technical decisions made are based in evidence or hard empirical experience, possibly within a framework of formalised operating procedures and protocols – or any combination thereof.  Examples include Air traffic control, building a bridge, managing a network, developing application software, diagnosing and treating a patient in a hospital. For most cases, a failure to acknowledge the facts may have consequences, that will for the most part, become immediately apparent.

In the typical commercial organisation not subject to stringent governance mandates, operating regulations or legislative constraints, decisions can be made with less reliance on the ‘facts’.  The reality is that managerial decisions involve a mix of facts, opinions, subjectivity, perceptions and indirect influence by outside stakeholders.

Decision making under uncertainty is well researched, and only one aspect of the broader discipline of decision theory, which underlines the fact that decision making, while apparently straightforward for the IT technologist working on technical challenges, can be anything but precise.

By helping the decision maker arrive at a balanced, appropriate decision, you will be able to garner personal influence. To this end, here are a few pointers, which if obvious to you, should be invaluable in the IT mentoring of your own team:

  • Empathy: If you are able to empathise with the decision maker (ie: Put yourself in their shoes) – would you see your position and contribution any differently?
  • Drop the binary thinking: If your approach is ‘my way, or the highway’ you eliminate the opportunity for dialogue. A productive dialog with important stakeholders will often produce surprising opportunities in the right climate.
  • Offer assistance: “If there’s anything else I can help with, please let me know” directed at the key stakeholders involved in the decision making process leaves the door open for your further input, and hence opportunity to influence the outcome.
  • Communicate in terms others can understand. This is at the heart of effective communications

If, on the other hand, your current working environment is toxic, disruptive and untenable, the most important decision that you should take is to either stay and influence things for the better, or leave for greener pastures – and this is where a business mentor  who is capable of supporting your  IT mentoring strategies could be of great help in testing any assumptions.  Either way, form your opinion in evidence!