First Option Adoption

The following entry is a part of the Pattern Library. The Pattern Library records the common patterns of events that have the potential to lead to project failure.

Name : First Option Adoption
Type: Decisions making pattern (patterns that influence the way an individual decision is made)

In brief :
Settling for the first idea thought of rather than identifying and evaluating a number of different options.

Description :
Decision making is a natural part of our lives.  The ubiquitous nature of decision making means we rarely stop to think about how we make decisions.  Oftentimes the result is that we make decisions almost unconsciously and without considering what the options might be.  In such cases, the first option thought of becomes the only option thought of. 

For many simple and less important decisions first option adoption is a valid strategy.  It saves times and gives us less things to worry about.  Problems do however arise when the first option adoption strategy is used for critical project decisions that warrant deeper thought.

Although first option adoption sounds simplistic, analysis of failed projects shows that many of the critical decisions that lead to failure were made based on the first option strategy.  Skilled leaders need to recognise when critical decisions are being made and need the skills to facilitate the process of having the team generate differing ideas. 

Typical sequence of events :

  1. Failure to recognise that a critical decision is being made
  2. Failure to generate alternate ideas
  3. Adoption of first idea thought off
  4. Project later suffers consequences of failure to consider decision more deeply

Negative effects :

  1. Missed opportunities that would have been available to the project if better options had been identified
  2. Various effects depending on the nature of the question in hand

Common Root Causes :

  1. Lack of situational awareness
  2. A sense of urgency to move forward outweighs the effort required to generate alternative ideas

Suggested Actions :

  1. Ensure critical decisions are clearly identified
  2. Elevate the profile of critical decisions and where appropriate use formal techniques to help generate options and weigh possibilities
  3. When leading group decision making activities, consciously provide facilitation to help individuals and groups generate more options (ie prevent them locking in an answer before differing options have been surfaced)

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