Blog Detail Hero Image

Machine Shop Automation: Emotions and Decision Making

Blog posts

six step decision process



Published on

Nov 2, 2022

Successful machine shop leaders make tough decisions and make them work. This six-step decision-making process will help you through tough automation decisions.

Machine Shop Automation: Six Step Decision Process

Read Time: 6 minutes

Word Count: 2075

Key Take Away: You can make better decisions using this six-step process

Machine shop leaders make tough decisions all the time. Whether or not to take on a new customer, which candidate to hire (if you can find one), or how to price a complicated job, you face tons of decisions daily.

Like most people, machine shop leaders worry when they are in process of making a big decision. That worry can seem warranted. After all, there is a lot riding on the outcome.

Whether or not to add a new machine tool is a big decision. Think about your process in the past. What worked? Why was that decision successful?

Then think about what didn’t work and why it didn’t.

Chances are you have Key Performance Indicators and your P&L to validate your decision. You know how well that new machine tool performed and paid dividends.

As you bought more CNC machines, you honed your process, and you were able to make your decisions clearly and sometimes more quickly. Buying a new machine tool is a big decision, even when you’ve done it before.

Whether or not to add a purpose-built, CNC machine-tending robot can be a big decision too. While the cost may not be nearly that of a new CNC machine, the decision will significantly impact your shop’s success.

It’s not so much about the money because the cost of the robot is much less than a new CNC machine. Some of the discomforts come from being in new territory. If you’ve not added a robot before, there can be some worry in your decision process.

What if the robot doesn’t deliver increased production as promised? What if the company doesn’t keep its installation promises and my machine tool is down longer than I want? If this fails, how will it impact my shop? How will I look to my colleagues? What will my team think?

What is causing those worries? A recent survey identified common decision-making concerns as moving too quickly, self-doubt, and too much emotion being packed into the decision.

All of this leads to being uncomfortable. And that can be the problem. You are trying to get to a good decision being uncomfortable makes you want to get the decision over with quickly. That is where bad decisions get made.

If you’ve made a decision that didn’t solve the problem, now you feel worse. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. That bad decision tends to reinforce other beliefs and can create a negative feedback loop, leading to more bad decisions. No one wants to be in that position.

How can you avoid that all-too-common trap?

There is a six-step process that can be highly effective when buying machine shop automation like a machine-tending robot, and it can be used for many other decisions as well.

Step One: Diagnose the Real Problem

While this step may seem obvious, this step can be skipped or glossed over. Skipping this step can easily lead to poor decision-making because you are making that decision in the dark. Be sure to put some real effort into diagnosing the problem.

But what is the real problem?

Your plant manager might come to you and tell you the problem is you are down two machine operators. When you are really busy and focused elsewhere, that might be the problem.

But is being short-staffed the problem, or is it the impact of being short-staffed that is the real problem? If you are short-staffed, you could be getting calls from angry customers wondering where their parts orders are. You could be losing customers. Even worse, you could be losing customers and not know it because they don’t announce that they are leaving. They simply don’t place any more orders. You could miss your revenue forecast because you can’t deliver and invoice. All that can impact your bottom line.

You get the picture. Diagnose the real problem and the impact of the problem on your shop and your management team.

A good question to ask is, “Why is this the real problem, and how do I know that it is?”

A good decision starts with diagnosing the real problem, understanding its impact, and what makes that the real problem. Not only that, but having a good sense of what makes the problem worth solving helps you through the rest of the process.

Knowing if a problem is worth solving will help you through points where you may want to give up. Think about how many initiatives you start that never make it to the finish line. Or it will make it to the finish line much later than you wanted.

Step Two: Clarify the Decision You Need to Make and Why

Now that you know the real problem, it is time to clarify the decision you need to make.

You need to clarify the decision if your problem is not having enough production. You know you need to create more production. That is not the decision you need to make. The real decision is how you get to and maintain that new production level over the long term.

Here’s the real decision: do you need to buy a new machine tool, or do you need to get more out of your existing machine tools?

Clarifying your decision is important because you may take action that creates a temporary fix. You know that machine shop success if built for the long term. Sometimes you need a short-term fix.

Medics apply compression to stop the bleeding before the wound can be sutured.

Once you’ve clarified the decision, you need to make it time to discuss the “why” behind the decision. What is it that makes this the real decision you need to make?

Why is it such a powerful question? If you have ever talked with a three-year-old, you know how powerful why can be. They constantly ask questions, especially why. They ask those questions because they want to learn. They are curious. The education system takes some of that out of us.

Bringing “why” back to the conversation is a powerful tool. Try using it more when you meet with your team.

If you give yourself a real date for the solution, that can be helpful. It can also help you think backward. Here’s what I mean.

If you want to start measuring the result on X date, when would you have to start implementation? If you want to start implementation on X date, when would you have to place the order? Thinking your timeline backward will help. And be sure to ask yourself the question, “What happens if I don’t meet that deadline?”

Step Three: Create the Pros and Cons List of Alternative Solutions

There is always more than one solution to the problem. Some solutions are a little better or worse; some create dramatically different results.

One way to organize your thoughts is to use the Franklin Inverted T approach. Draw a line down the center of the page. On the left side, place all the decision elements that are negative or harm the solution.

On the right side of the page, list all of the decision elements that are positive or have a positive impact on the decision.

Near the bottom of the line, draw a line across the page, so you have an inverted T.

Under the line, list all of the factors that impact the decision, but you don’t yet know if they are positive or negative. This is also a great spot to ask any questions you may have.

To create more certainty and to help refine the decision, some leaders assign each element on both sides a score of 1 to 10. Ten being the biggest impact. Then they total the negative points and total the positive points.

That tends to give you a good sense of your thinking and how you should feel about the decision. In most cases, this process brings real clarity. If you complete step three and don’t have clarity, go back to steps one and two and review. You may have missed something.

Step Four Recognize How You Really Feel About That Decision and Why

This is where those emotions come in and have the biggest impact on our decisions. The three previous steps are very logic based.

Psychologists tell us that emotion plays a role in all decisions. The ability to recognize how you really feel about the decision allows us to harness the power of emotions for our use instead of being driven by them.

Even great leaders can get stuck at this point in the process. It is vital that you identify exactly how you feel about the decision. What is your dominant emotion? Fear? Anxiety? Overwhelm?

Step three will be easier if you’ve done a great job with the first two steps. Naming emotions can be difficult, but when you name them, it has less power over you. More importantly, it allows you to make the decision without emotion because you separate the two.

If you don’t name the emotion, it is right there in the decision-making process with you. It is likely to be working against you, not for you. It is the elephant in the room.

With the emotional aspect handled, you can move on to step five.

Step Five: Visualize Your Success and How it Feels

For decades, professional athletes in all sports have used visualization to guide their performance and success.

You’ve probably heard your sports heroes talk about visualization and using it as one of the pillars of their success.

Visualization is more than just a sports performance technique. Other professions use it. Attorneys use it to help them prepare for opening and closing arguments. Professional speakers use it to make their presentations better. Chess players use it. Hockey players use it. So do Formula 1 and NASCAR drivers. Olympic athletes use it too.

The important part of this step is to imagine you’ve made a successful decision. How does it feel? How do you feel about your business? How do you feel about your future? Making the feelings real is the critical success element in this step of the process.

Success here is all based on having positive feelings and the endorphins positive feelings release. In this step, you need to actually feel the feeling of success. You can use how times you’ve felt successful as a guide. It is imperative that the feelings are real. You can’t fake this one.

There are tons of videos on YouTube covering visualization. Next time you are there, take a peek at some videos. Or you can Google “Peak Performance and Visualization” to get a wealth of resources on this topic.

This is an important step in your process. You don’t want to overlook this or go through the motions. You want to put real effort into this. You might find it valuable in different portions of your life.

Step Six: Make the Decision and Apply the Positive Feedback Loop

You’re following this process because you want to consistently make good decisions. And you want to make them quickly, without feeling rushed. Unless the problem is solved, not deciding is not to your advantage.

So make the decision. Either yes or no, this vendor or that, but decide.

Once you’ve decided, use those feelings again. That will create a positive loop. Billionaire Mark Cuban said, “If you are not positive energy, you are negative energy.” Be sure you are controlling and using your emotions at this point to reinforce your decision and move ahead. The future of your machine shop depends on it.

The competitive landscape continues to evolve. New factors come into play every day. It is critical that you make good decisions and make them as quickly as possible.

Return to the EMT example of using compression on a wound until it can be stabilized and sutured. Your machine shop is much like a living, breathing organism. It won’t get better by itself. It needs your guidance. Your guidance comes in the form of decisions.

Make some great ones!

Ready to start the conversation about CNC automation and robotics in your machine shop? Call us at 866-952-9020 and then press 1 to start the conversation.

Video Thumbnail Image

Share this article?

RoboJob logo
Member Seal logoTMA logo


RoboJob NV

Industriepark 12 Zone B

2220 Heist-op-den-Berg


+32 (0)15 25 72 74

BE0889 561 066

Technology Center

RoboJob GmbH

Neuwiesen 3

74251 Lehrensteinsfeld


+49 (0)7134 917 4339

DE319 559 293

RoboJob USA

An Alliance with Fusion OEM

6951 High Grove Boulevard

Burr Ridge, IL 60527

United States