In our previous article, we looked at why our previous experiences and intuition won’t serve us well in a different environment and introduced a few techniques to help you. In this article, we look at the first technique to help you make better decisions in this new working environment.

Often, our first default move when we have a change in our working environment is to fall back on ‘replacement’ decisions.

What is a Replacement Decision?

A replacement decision is looking at the action you were doing in the old working environment and finding a suitable replacement option in the new working environment. Right now, many of us are having to make decisions as we cannot meet face-to-face with employees or clients in the new remote working, virtual environment.

Example: Let’s say you have a monthly update meeting with your development partners or beta clients about a new module you’re working on. Once a month, you get together for a meeting to get all that user feedback in a central place.

You might be thinking, now that everyone is working remotely, you’ll just replace it with a virtual version, maybe a video meeting. It seems simple enough, seems logical, seems to make sense.

The Problem with Replacement Decisions

When we make replacement decisions, we focus on the actions. We find a substitute or similar alternative that is possible in the new environment. The problem with this is that this new action may or may not get you the result you were expecting to get. And if it does give us the result we were after, we may be missing out on a better result.

A change to a different work environment is your opportunity to take a step forward and get a lot more out of the decisions you’re making now. This has the potential to avoid ‘survival decisions’, e.g. “We’ll just do whatever we need to get by.”

What if you could set yourself up to be a better, more robust company with better, more robust decisions?

The Solution: Consider the Effect

What the technique below does is open up your options by considering how, through any means necessary, you could effectively achieve the purpose of the original action in the current environment, instead of focusing on how to replace the original action in the current environment.

Considering the purpose of an original action gives you an opportunity to make stronger, better, more effective decisions.

Step 1: Identify the purpose of the original action.

Step 2: Break out the action you were taking from the reason you were taking it in the first place.

Step 3: Considering the purpose, or the effect you want to achieve, identify all of the possible options that could achieve that outcome given the current working environment.

Example 1: So, going back to our previous example, let’s say the purpose of the meeting was to get user feedback about the new module from individuals in a central place. Yes, replacing this in-person meeting with a virtual equivalent is the most obvious option; but it might not be the best option given the purpose.

Now that you’re in a different working environment, working remotely, you could instead set up a Slack channel, or a team in Microsoft Teams, or any other multitude of ways that lets users collaborate or give you more direct feedback.

“Considering the purpose of an original action gives you an opportunity to make stronger,

better, more effective decisions.”

Getting user feedback might not be the purpose of that meeting. Let’s consider another purpose it may have.

Example 2: It might be that you get plenty of updates from users and really, the meeting is about building rapport with the project leader at the customer’s end. If that is the purpose of the meeting, then consider how do you achieve that with something else? Perhaps you could change the email updates you send out to the beta partners to include more personal details from the team.

Example 3: If the purpose is to keep in touch with the beta partners in a social sense so that things don’t get too stale or ‘corporate’, that opens up your options to actions like hosting an online quiz session for beta partners or clients, something like a virtual pub quiz.


The point isn’t that any of those specific actions are what you should be looking at, or any one of those purposes are the reason you have update meetings. The key is to stop looking at and focusing on the actions. The point of these examples is for you to consider how the purpose of the meeting, or action, opens up your options to consider alternative actions, and make more effective decisions.

Use this different working environment as an opportunity to focus on the purpose of the things you were doing in the traditional physical world (where we could actually meet with each other), and come up with ideas that could meet those goals or needs more effectively in this new working environment.

Want to hear more about this, and other decision making tools?

Over the next three articles in our Working from Home series, we’ll explain how you can use these three techniques to make better decisions in a bit more depth. Using these techniques, you will be able to make better, clearer decisions in this different environment that you’re in now, and also in any environment that you’re in in the future.

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