During my stint at Google, I was really impressed by how much of the company’s decision making had been data driven. From the founder’s vision to an employee’s OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), metrics are used to assess performance, measure progress and help every employee make objective decisions.
On the other end, working for the Government made me appreciate how complex decision making can be. It’s not that there are no metrics or there is a dearth of data with the government. Every government department generates a ton of data and all programmes are reviewed through metrics to assess progress. For instance, in MNREGA, data on number of job holders, wages paid, number of workers at a particular site in a particular Panchayat are captured in real time.
Even then, it’s hard to make effective decisions in the government sector for the sheer diversity of the work involved, the intricacy in quantifying a public project and even more importantly, the difficulty in comparing competing choices through numbers.
Imagine the sheer scale of government’s work. It is concerned with diverse areas of a citizen’s life– from health to housing, environment to electricity, livelihood to local governments, education to ease of living.
When the choice is between two competing, yet critical subjects, how do you even compare and objectively arrive at an effective decision?
Let’s say you have some discretionary funds and you are now required to prepare project proposals to put to use these available funds.
Consider the choices you have.
Would you improve the health infrastructure in a PHC (If yes, which PHC?) Or work on establishing a training centre to upskill the local youth? Is it a better idea to use the funds to construct a road to the local school Or improve the infrastructure in Anganwadi? How about a public library?
In what sense, should the needs of a local school be prioritised over a PHC? Or a training centre over a public library? Should we pursue those projects that provide maximum benefit for the maximum number of people? Or should we prioritise works for the most vulnerable even though limited in numbers?
In an ideal world, we would like to have enough resources to solve all the problems in health, education, power, water, infrastructure, livelihood, and public order. But the reality is complex. Our time is limited, and so are our funds. When you prioritise something, you are making a conscious decision not to pursue something else.
Such decision making is one of the biggest challenges I face in my job. At times, it leads me to spend an inordinate amount of time even deciding what to do. But overtime, I have realised that indecision is often worse than a suboptimal decision. So, these days I tend to go with my best judgement at that moment, knowing it may or may not have been the most effective decision.
So far, I have not found a solution. For now, questions are all I got.
Given 1 cr untied fund, which project do I work on?
Given 3 hrs of free office time, how should I choose to spend it?
In any situation, how do I make sure I am pursuing the greater good?
Hey there ! Please may I know what was your role in Google ??
He used to work for google company
Hey there ! Please may i know what was your role at Google ??
Decision making is the one of the toughtest task for me & it always makes me feel that I am not worth enough for big responsibilities. But the way you left this post with a question mark being confused between two options, I realized that you too face the same challenge at some point of time. If my inspiration can reach such height of success fighting confusion & learning the skill the decision making, the I can do this too. Thank you sir for writing this thought-provoking post🙏
Indecision is often worse than a sub optimal decision! 🙏
Could you please write more such articles about the common problems bureaucrats face and comparison of work/responsibility ownership/accountability handling in Corporate and government.
We understand your limitations as an officer while publicly speaking about your job, but you can be general in your fact stating like you did in ‘The Greater Good’ article.
What an amazing well-written blog. I wish I had this problem. Thank you sir
Place = NITI Aayog?
You may not get the time to read this, but thats okay. Here is what i feel. It might be of some help to you-
Whenever faced with such competing forces i feel 2 things should be kept and pursued in mind.
1. What is your long term goal in your professionally? Ideally it should be around the theme that you are able to create self sustaining things that will go on, even after you are no longer there. Things that can exist and grow without you and continue the good work u now..
2. If you can’t seem to fit things in this long term perspective, or feel that it will be too cumbersome an exercise to do so, then what you need to do is reduce the amount of time you take in going from thinking to actually doing something. An exercise i do in such situations is that i make a toss, or as many toss i need , decide within that mini moment when the coin is in air. If can’t decide, i just go with option that the toss says… Afterall, the goal here is to save time in decision making…
Tell me what u think if you get time. Of course i know the sounds much easy then it actually is, but the goal i feel is to make better and better decisions overtime.(including whether to invest much time in making some decisions, or not..)
This i feel is a long game and should be played as such…
Hello Anudeep Sir… Glad that you’re sharing your experiences,confusions etc., of the administration. Sharing real situations of the ground throws some light on the challenging role of the job.Thank you 🙂
hello Sir, this article is so informative and elaborated the vivid aspect of decision making. thank you.
Hello sir .. Myself Mouli.. I am west bengal .. After reading your article i can proudly say myself that yes indecision is more harmful and i am not an indicisive person right now, which i was 1 year back.. Thank you sir.. I still can’t make proper study routine that would lead my journey from a aspirant to an civil servant, but i make per day routine atleast .. Thank u for your guidance ..
One perspective is to take decision that improves the people who are suffering most in our society.
Thalaivare, cool. Enjoy the process
Decision making is the most crucial whether to make or break a situation .
Here I would like to give an list of youtube video playlist of Professor Michael Sandel
Very good blog, really helpful to me. Thanks for sharing such a wealth of information…
Indecision is often worse than a suboptimal decision…!
Planning is everything. You must plan each and everything of your life.
Regarding public sphere you should make graph of every sector coming in your domain of work and execute accordingly.
May be it is not that simple as it said but it helps you a lot.
In the end, I really appreciate you. One day after becoming an ias officer I will meet you.
This kind of complex situations while taking a decision make us think in multiple directions. We need to achieve a stable thinking nature kicking back with our experiences. For example: In the above mentioned complex case, the development of good education system facilities is crucial because it helps each and every individual to tackle every kind of situation in a better way and even help them to ask for their problems and needs in a more sustainable way considering multiple situations and risks associated with it.
Some times some situations make us stand still. We doesn’t know what to choose ,wht to decide ,wht to do ?? .
But having no idea, not trying to figure it out is a big sin . Because in future it leads to have a guilt .
It’s better to taking a period of gd time to take gd decision which is helpful to PPL . Even the decision u make is hard for u . But in future u will really eat the fruit of ur hardwork .
Anudeep sir, how about going to field ask people what they really want, leave your problem on people, they will tell you the solution. Why wasting precious three hours of time.
Hi sir, Why to choose one project over others? Why not two or three projects ?. You (or local govt) can provide a basic amount necessary for the initiation of project or let’s say 50% amount and the rest amount can be crowdfunded from the people living in that locality. This can bring a sense of responsibility or ownership of local people towards that project (say PHC or Primary school, Library etc).
Thanks for Reading:
1.0 Mentioned organization is very clear about its aim (Expand, at any cost, may it compromise, environment, mental health, a nation’s interests; to name a few.) that is money, accessing more power.
2.0 On other hand, government’s aim changes over time, according to the elected person’s view of the nation and world and what fits for them.
3.0 Poverty, environment, education, health, law enforcement etc. to be addressed, both in short as well as long term. And all of the issues are intertwined with one another in perpetuity.
4.0 To do the Greater Good, it is to be addressed specifically, the root cause of the all issues, that all arises from the innate desires of the human being.
Part 1 of n.
Making one sided greater good is more worst . If u can calculate the significant metrics of different areas u can easily guess what is next important that time at minimal time.
So if u are at this post of decision making u have to kept an egale eye on both vulnerability and requirement and try to come on any converging Point that make ur decision worthy.
In other words, the government is taking in too much than its capacity. You are finding a solution for a problem that should not even exist. Wealth distribution cannot and should not be done by the agents of the government, it is something voluntary that has to occur with in the society. Free and open enterprise is the only efficient solution.
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