Pro and Con list to make better decisions.

Most everyone is familiar with Pro and Con lists to help make a decision.  Often times the Pro and Con List does very little to clarify the decision – because – well – the reason you are creating the Pro/Con list is because it was a ‘close call’ to begin with.  We don’t go to the trouble of making a Pro and Con list on ‘no-brainers’.  Often times the pro and cons are pretty equal – making the decision still difficult.  Our mistake is that we stop at this point.  We don’t take the next step to reduce the impact of the “Cons”.


Use the Pro/Con/What if table instead.  List your Pros and Cons (like you would normally), then add a “What if” or “What needs to happen to reduce your discomfort of the Con”.   Once you have your matrix filled out, and then determine the probability and impact of each.  If you can’t think of any way to reduce the impact of the ‘Con’ – that adds clarity.  But most of the time we don’t take that step to think of things to improve your position.

Take the below example between a current job and a new job.  Once you have identified the “What Needs To Happen” – have a transparent and collaborative discussion with the hiring managers to see what is possible.


Pros Cons What needs to happen to  reduce discomfort of the Con

Job 1 – current

Enjoy the people and type of work $45/hr – underpaid Request $60-65/hour raise
Analytical, model and mathematical work that I enjoy Don’t have enough money to do much. Ask if there’s an opportunity to get paid for your articles, inventions and publications on your findings (in addition to the hourly rate)
Opportunity to set a standard and make a name for myself in this area Can’t enjoy my free time very much. Ask if there are any other things you can do for separate and added pay (i.e. referrals, sales leads, promote at trade shows, explicit things that will make the business money)
Opportunity to present papers on discoveries Can’t comfortably support my family obligations Find an alternative/added revenue stream (in addition to this hourly rate) external to this company.
Opportunity to define processes and lead policies

Job 2 – new opportunity

$85/hour Don’t know the folks. Will be working in isolation (not in a team). I work well both in a team and in isolation.   I can create opportunities to share my knowledge with co-workers through group discussions, lunch meetings, etc.  I can build working relationships outside of my specific task.
Easy work Have to accept without reading/signing a contract.  They want to know if I will accept before going to the trouble of a contract.  After I accept, I get a written contract to review and sign.  My fear is that after I accept and resign from other job—I find something in the contract that is not acceptable. If I want, I can accept job ‘now’, with the understanding that I still need to review and accept the written contract.  And you agree to start 2-weeks after you sign the contract. Then don’t you’re your resignation on old job until you have read the new job contract.
Will have enough money to do a few more things (including supporting my family). Not very exciting or challenging work. Ask if there are presentation opportunities within the company.
Will have some funds to enjoy my free time.  Will have some free time to enjoy. Ask if there are any opportunities (in this company) to set standards or procedures in the area that you are interested in.
Not a high pressure job.  No stress.  Have free time. Is there an outside activity that can fill the presentation, publication, and setting standards gap?  Is there another thing that gives me the same fulfillment or feeling?
Learn more about company and its other departments.  There may be other, more exciting project that you can get involved in as well.


Bottom line:  Taking the time to do a Pro and Con is critical; but sometimes it’s not enough.  Taking that extra step to find a solution to the Cons helps you better understand your next steps.

In my GoTo Academy: Tools for the GoTo Guy and Gal continuous online coaching series, I go into Time-boxing and the use of Parking Lot methods in detail.
If you are interested in more training in these areas, please signup for the continuing online coaching series.

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