Decisive action

For the last few months I have been droning on about the need for your contribution of new ideas on how to overcome potential barriers to growth for NDT. This month I had planned to continue that theme by looking at how the business model could be changed to the benefit of NDT. Luckily for you, I thought I would give you an early Christmas present with a month off, allowing you to give your grey matter a rest, so that you can come back refreshed to the subject in the New Year.

Have you done your Christmas shopping yet? Do you know what you are going to buy? If the answer to either of these questions is “No” then you will need to get a move on. There will only be a possible maximum of just over two weeks left by the time you are reading this. Each year I try to be organised and start early, but inevitably I always end up running around at the last minute.

Obviously, the first step is deciding what to buy. The difficulty of progressing past this point is very dependent on the recipient of the present. For young children, the choice is often out of your hands and made by the latest craze assisted by TV advertising. For older children, their lack of faith in you being able to give them something they actually want means that giving them the money, and delegating the whole present buying business to them, is a happy compromise. Of course, this latter simple solution can be applied in part to people of all ages by giving vouchers, leaving you to show your consideration through the easier task of selecting the appropriate retail outlet. Not much can go wrong with this approach, unless you choose DIY vouchers for someone more inclined to drink and entertainment!

In the past, I would walk around the shops looking for inspiration for that more difficult person who didn’t fall into the categories above. This is time consuming and does not always produce results, but serendipity can produce some of the best presents. The internet offers the ability to do this from the comfort of, well, anywhere. But where do you start? I find that perusing the catalogues that come with the weekend newspapers can be useful for identifying initial ideas. Once an idea germinates, there is often the need to conduct research to see what is available and which one of the inevitable myriad of options would be suitable for the person in mind. This is particularly relevant to any technology that is under consideration. Again, the internet is a good starting point to filter ideas, but speaking to someone with some knowledge is the preferred option for the final decision.

Finally, there is always one person for whom you just cannot think of what to buy. There may be a number of possible options, all with pros and cons, and not one that is the obvious choice. No matter how long you um and ah and click and read, you get no nearer to identifying the best choice. So, you have to make a choice and hope for the best.

“It is the thought that counts” does not always apply. Speaking from experience, the choice of present can be based on what you want the person to want and not on what they actually want. Conversely, the recipient may have already decided, down to the smallest detail, what they would like, so no matter what effort you input, if the result differs from their wishes, it will not be a success – awkward.

When thinking about what to write in this article, I googled ‘decision-making chaotic’ and came across an article that described a decision-making framework. It identified four different scenarios: simple, complicated, complex and chaotic, and described how to deal with each one. It is not hard to apply these scenarios to the choosing of Christmas presents. The framework is called Cynefin. Cynefin is Welsh and doesn’t have an English equivalent. It translates as a place where a person or even an animal feels it ought to live. It is where nature around you feels right and welcoming. The creator of the framework chose it because it serves as a reminder that there are multiple factors in our environment and our experience that influence us, and hence our decision making, in ways we can never understand.

So, if like me, you find Christmas decision making a bit of a challenge, then take heart because you are not alone. You have only to look at the news to see any number of examples of poor decision making. Sometimes it is not so much poor decision making but avoiding a decision altogether or putting it off because it is too difficult. The other lesson that can be clearly seen is that once the decision is made, it is often not seen through to completion. It is as if the decision and the initial action is all that is needed.

Keep this in mind over the holidays and be ready in the New Year to make the decisions needed to achieve a bright future for NDT. I wish you and your families a Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within the NDT Newspaper. They do not represent the views of AMEC or the HSE who funded the PANI projects.

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Newton Building, St George’s Avenue, Northampton NN2 6JB. Fax: 01604 89 3861; Email:

or email Bernard McGrath direct at

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