The Way Forward is CLEAR: A Framework for Effective Decision-Making and Action

The year of living gently
March 10, 2023

CLEAR stands for Clarify – Learn – Evaluate – Act – Refine. I created this decision-making process to guide executives through resolving any strategic question or issue they care about. It is simple and encourages imperfect action. You can apply it to refining your career trajectory, preparing for an important presentation, or anything in between. Below is a short description of each step.

Step 1 – Clarify

Name the question or problem you are trying to answer or solve. How will you know you have solved or answered it well? Focus your attention on how you will measure a successful outcome. If you rush this step, you risk not solving the right problem. Characterize the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.

Step 2 – Learn

Brainstorm a set of alternatives for bridging the gap. What ideas surface? What options exist? Prioritize those you have the most enthusiasm for—even if they feel out of reach right now—selecting two or three to evaluate first. Compare that set of options against your requirements to assess their likely fit. Craft and run a set of small experiments as needed to answer questions you have. Be curious, reaching out to others to gain any missing information. As needed, return to your list of ideas to assess more options until you feel satisfied. 

Step 3 – Evaluate

Compare potential paths you are considering with one another. Where is your best fit, given what you have learned? Confirm your choice or revisit the learning step until you can. One of three outcomes typically occurs:

1.   A clear winner for the path to take emerges

2.   Multiple pathways appear to be the best fits, and you decide to pursue them simultaneously or sequentially

3.   None emerge as the right path, but a new option appears that does

Step 4 – Act

Based on which outcome comes from the prior step, construct a rough plan for moving forward, mapping out your implementation strategy. Determine what needs to be done and prioritize your action steps. Decide what you will do, in what sequence, with the goal of getting to “good enough.” Create and implement the solution, harnessing assistance from others as needed.

Step 5 – Refine

Make micro-adjustments to incorporate lessons learned from implementation. Solicit feedback from others to inform these tweaks, measuring your progress against what you set out to do originally. Over time, revisit the steps of the CLEAR process to improve your results. 

By following the CLEAR process, you can navigate complex decision-making processes with clarity and confidence. This approach not only helps to identify a meaningful path forward but also ensures that actions are taken and progress is made. As you apply the CLEAR process to various aspects of your personal and professional life, you will find yourself better equipped to tackle challenges and achieve the success you desire.

This is part of my upcoming book, Your Finest Work: Career Fulfillment in A Complicated World