Decision-making during a pandemic – how to choose from bad options and disagree while preserving your important relationships

Decision-making during a pandemic – how to choose from bad options and disagree while preserving your important relationships

Some decisions are tough. But covid is creating unique uncertainty about the future for nearly every decision we make. Wouldn’t it be great to know you are making high-quality decisions?

As the weather cools, children return to schools, and the holiday season approaches, we will have to take a different approach to the mitigation of exposure risk than what we’ve experienced so far.

If you’re finding it hard to make one or more decisions right now – it might be time to take a different, more structured approach.

Years ago, I took a six-week course through Stanford University on SDG’s Decision Quality framework - this model sorts decision types by both frequency and value:
When viewed through this lens, it is clear that covid-19 and related exposure risks have changed routine, benign, automatic decisions into major “Strategic Decisions” with non-trivial implications.


This year our daughter is entering high school, which is an important milestone in any year, but now we’re facing so many more complicating factors. So our family has found it helpful to use a structured approach to making decisions around back-to-school for Grace, Aubrey and John, and in managing our approach to other major covid-related decisions.

The Decision Quality model considers six elements when making important, strategic, high-quality decisions:

  1. Set the right shared frame (purpose, perspective, and scope)
  2. Consider alternatives;
  3. Gather meaningful data;
  4. Clarify values and tradeoffs;
  5. Use logical reasoning; and
  6. Commit to action.

While making decisions is necessary, how we discuss those decisions is equally important.

When we disagree with someone important in our lives on issues that challenge our core values, it can be tempting to prioritize merely reaching an agreement. To maintain a healthy working relationship, openness and trust, and reach high-quality, collaborative decisions, we need to ensure we are listening and seeing each other along the way. The journey is as important as the destination – quick agreement is damaging if it comes at the cost of belonging and security.

It’s equally important to realize that a well-made decision (making the best decision with the information you have at the time) can still have disappointing outcomes.

Covid-19 continually forces us to choose between several sub-optimal options. Each choice carries risks and none guarantee a positive outcome, so we are unlikely to be completely satisfied with whatever decision we make.

Consider the six attributes of decision quality, stay true to your core values, and work on building bridges of validation with those you care about.

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