3rd July 2020

Decisions Decisions…by Drew Povey

The Triple P Model

We all make decisions each and every day, from the moment we wake up until we drift off to sleep in the evening. A lot of the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis won’t have huge consequences, although these innocuous small decisions can become habits…but that’s a blog for another day! Most of us will, however, have to make some crucial decisions throughout our day and this is what today’s blog is all about. I have worked across a number of sectors where critical decisions have to be made for the immediate, mid or long-term performance of the company, sports team, board or school. Over time I have field-tested a model that I would like to share with you that will encourage a more measured approach to making those key decisions in life when they arise. I’ve used this model extensively. It now leaves you with the key decision…Do I read on or not?

I call this system the Triple P model and it is comprised of three key action phases:


Press Pause

We all live our lives at such a frantic pace and if you’re anything like me, you’ll shift into autopilot mode numerous times a day. Even during these uncertain and challenging times, though our working days may have changed to varying degrees, we are all still facing pressure, such as balancing working from home with family commitments, keeping our teams engaged, ensuring the longevity of our companies during these times as well as many, many other factors. When we are caught in these moments of pressure – it is often easy to make knee-jerk decisions that we haven’t had the chance to properly assess and in doing so, we may make uninformed choices. In this model the first element is therefore crucial at supporting us to overcome this downfall. When faced with a big decision we need to press the pause button whilst we consider our next move. To be clear, this isn’t stopping. Stopping is final and requires a significant effort to restart. So what does pressing pause mean? Well, when we press pause this simply means we take a ‘breather’ and buy some time to think about and decide on our next move.

Author Daniel Kahneman, in his book Thinking Fast and Slow, lays out two distinct ways in which the human mind thinks. The first way is System One thinking. When we make decisions through System One thinking, our cognitive process is based on familiarity and it is in those times when we are quick to go with our gut instinct. These decisions feel easy and they may be appropriate for a lot of what we do. However, we can fall into the trap of making more crucial decisions through System One thinking, and that isn’t so great! The pause stops us automatically making that knee-jerk decision and buys us some time to think things through.

Perspective Gained

What is System Two thinking? When we have paused and taken time to reflect and gain some perspective of the choices we have in front of us. This is what Kahneman calls System Two thinking. It allows us to take a step back and see the bigger picture. When we are focused on the context of our situation, our method for making decisions is much more effective and we are likely to make the better choice. Life is so often more complex than a simple black or red decision as there are always a range of factors to consider before taking the leap!

As part of the process of gaining greater clarity and perspective we should also seek the views of those around us. You wouldn’t think about deciding on the new colour scheme for your dining room without consulting with your significant other half (would you…really…perhaps that is just me because of my inept ability at interior design?). So why would you make critical decision about your business or team without listening to the views of trusted stakeholders? Use the pause time to seek out views, talk to colleagues or to do some research – depending on the time you have. My mentor used to say to me, “let’s pick this up tomorrow” and how often had my view changed by the following day? Honestly, it would do quite often. And if my position hadn’t changed from my initial gut feeling, then perfect – I knew with real certainty that it was the right decision. I had gained perspective.

Priorities Setting

As a result of pressing pause and gaining some much-needed perspective, then and only then can we begin to set our priorities in this decision-making process. The clarity that we have now gained will bring the important factors into sharp focus. What impact do you need your decision to have and how does it need to be executed? I’m not referring to the execution of the work that will follow on from the decision/s being made, but more about the contributing factors that will need to be executed well, that will then lead you to making the right decisions. There will be a number of priorities that need to be considered when making decisions. Some of these will become clear as a result of you gaining perspective and there is no right or wrong number of priorities. But it will be much clearer if you can boil it down to just a few.

In this phase we need to try and keep on track with the System Two thinking. We know what the issue is, we know the wider picture and the context in which the issue sits and now our priorities can be set out in order to help us make a clear and appropriate final call. Whether we are dealing with a challenging situation with a student in a school or entering a game-changing situation in a game of rugby, there will be priorities that underpin the decision that we have to make and this final part of the process is key.

When setting these priorities, I believe it is helpful to ask ourselves some final fundamental questions that will help frame our thinking and make the right decisions. Questions such as;

‘What matters most right now?’ ‘What is our important/urgent?’


‘What will really make the difference now?’

can all be useful. Keeping with the sporting example from above, this would be key in tweaking and adjusting the team’s tactics and wider game plan.

In closing, I want to address the issue of time frames. I often get the challenge of “how is this possible in the heat of the moment?” There is always time and the process can be as long or as short as you have time. In the heat of a game of sport, a decision may need to be made quickly following an opponent’s try or goal. A team can then press pause, form a huddle to gain context and clarity and the captain can work with the team in deciding the next play or tactic. This has to happen in 60 to 90 seconds! At the other end of the spectrum, a senior team can go on a weekend retreat to decide on the next phase of the group’s journey and the process can take 48 hours over activities, meals and informal interactions. The timing will need to be relevant and appropriate to the circumstances.

I can’t and shouldn’t tell you what decisions to make, but hopefully this model will help you make better decisions for yourself and those around you. As ever, I would love to hear you views, so please get in touch via the contacts page!