Understand the G.A.P - that's all it takes

4 minute read

‘To be or not to be, that’s the question!’, as Shakespeare famously wrote. I think decision-making subsequently boils down to it.

When I got the opportunity to write for the Oxford blog, and as I began to contemplate what to write about, it struck me, ‘what am I doing right now?’ – I am in the process of decision-making. That is the one inevitable act for me, just as the decision to apply for Oxford or the decision on how to balance my work and school, and now the decision on what to write; I am in the constant decision-making process. And, then I wondered, why shouldn’t I share my learnings on decision-making?

Today, there are a plethora of decision-making books, videos, artifacts and articles available where innumerable experts have contributed their perspectives and frameworks on unprejudiced decision-making principles, where I have gained rich insight into the effective decision-making process. And, as I learn and apply these frameworks/principles in my personal/professional decisions, I see that the core element is whether the decision made achieves the desired goals or not.

Every individual, not only professionally but also personally, must make numerous decisions throughout their day. Right from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep, our days are permeated with decisions, which is exhausting yet necessary. This is one stressful activity that is perpetual for everyone in the quotidian routine, regardless of their professional capacity or personal phase.

Perhaps the level of stress may vary depending on the intricacy of the decision being made, but we can’t deny the fact that it is pretty exhausting and daunting at times. Hence, I gave a thought to make this decision-making process as easy as falling off a log that not only gives a sense of accomplishment but also generates the best results.

When I think about it, it seems an ideal decision would yield a win-win situation for all parties involved, but that would be a utopia. Hence, the least that I can do is to ensure that my decisions have the lowest adverse effects possible if I’m unable to mitigate them at all.

To make a simple yet effective decision, I have developed the G.A.P method that I use in my decision-making, which focuses on three elements:

Goal [G] – the goal

Foremost, it is vital for me to be perspicuous about the end results I’m striving to implement.

Thus, I ask myself: what am I trying to achieve here? What is the end goal?

Approach [A] – pragmatic approaches

Once the end goal is clear, I consider only the pragmatic approaches to keep it simple. Moreover, I only choose ones that are rational for me rather than those that are conventional.
At this point, I ask myself whether my approaches are realistic. Will I be able to pull it off? This is to analyse my strength and capacity.

Product [P] – the product

And, lastly, I am always mindful of the after-effects of my approaches i.e. the end product or consequences it produces.

So my questions here are: what is the product of my action or approach? Is it giving me desired outcomes? What are the ramifications? Can I mitigate the adverse effects by adding or amending any step in the approach?

Understand the GAP, and that’s all it takes – this is my philosophy towards decision-making and keeping it simple.

One point to note here is that if your decision does not produce expected outcomes, which may happen, it simply implies that there is a gap between G and P. It did happen with me numerous times, and I have learned from my experience that, here, I need to amend the approach or revisit the product. 

This GAP should close the gap between the G and P, ie G = P. At that point, we can say it is headed in the right direction. Understanding the GAP entails ensuring that G = P, i.e. no gap exists between them.

Of course, in practice, some decisions may be more difficult to make, which involve financial risk, loss and other impacting external factors. At Oxford, our professors have enriched us with their invaluable experiences and great frameworks, which I could apply to my work almost immediately. Such complex decisions require these frameworks and methods that help us build our strategic thinking. And, my best way is to begin with the simplest way possible and then tweak the approach as the decision becomes more complex.

In this honourable journey, right from the day I was invited to join the Saïd Business School programme, with each passing day I get to hear the diverse view from leaders across the globe. And, as I participate in these discussions worldwide, I have realised that the decisions can differ even for similar goals. Right or wrong is always subjective and may vary from individual to individual. I think one decision that is right from my perspective may appear wrong/different to someone else and vice versa. It is all about perspective but what is important is to realise the GAP in one’s decision.

So, next time, when it’s time to make a decision, just think about it as one of the tasks that needs completion in a day and try to bridge the gap. Because, in the end, should I or should I not? That’s the GAP we are attempting to resolve here.