Decision making is a step in the problem solving process and the quality of your solutions and decisions is only as good as the information they are based on. So people are always trying to figure out how to make better decisions. By the way, how do you make decisions?
Like problem solving, decision making is a teachable skill. It’s good that we’re taking about this now, because judgment and decision making is one of the 10 key skills needed for future jobs.
Introduction to How to Make Better Decisions
Decision Making 101: How to Make Better Decision – 8 Steps
- Define the decision to be made
- Collect information
- Analyze the information
- Develop possible solutions
- Evaluate the quality of each solution
- Choose a solution
- Implement the decision
- Test the decision (Did it do what it was supposed to do?)
From my extensive experience in research, the eight simple steps would translate into the following process, which will help you to become a better decision maker and a more valuable employee.
UPDATE: First published September 2009
Anatomy of a Decision Making Process: How to Make Better Decisions
Stage 1: Define the Decision
- State the decision to be made in your organization in clear and simple language and answer the following questions
- How important is the decision?
- How do decisions get made in your organization?
- Why does the decision have to be made?
- What is the impact of not deciding?
- Who will be impacted by the decision, and how?
- Who are your allies in the organization?
- Is the decision permanent or reversible?
- What are the desired outcomes of making the decision?
- Is acceptance and support for the decision critical for its implementation?
- How much time is available for making the decision?
Stage II: Gather Information
- Every decision is a response to a situation, what are the root causes of the situation?
- Collect files, records and other relevant documents
- Talk to stakeholders
- Brainstorm with colleagues
- Conduct focus group interviews
- Look at best practices
- How accurate is the information
- Does it represent a diversity of points of view
- Are there any biases
- Read all the information gathered and evaluate the quality of them
- Distill the facts pertinent to the decision to be made
- Restructure the definition of the decision if you have to
- Draw conclusions from the information gathered and identify possible solutions (Do not limit yourself to what has been done before but open yourself to new and better alternative solutions)
- Develop a set of decision criteria to judge the quality of each solution and assess its suitability
Stage III: Consider Solutions
- Use the set of decision criteria developed in Stage II to judge the quality of each solution and assess its suitability
- State the advantages and disadvantages of each solution
- State the costs, benefits and implication of implementing each option
- Do not focus only on short-term costs but also look at long term benefits
- State obstacles to each option and how they could be handled
Stage IV: Make a Decision
- Which option best serves the desired outcome stated in Stage I?
- Is the option consistent with the mission, goals and objectives of the organization
- Select the best option
- Explain your decision to those involved and impacted
Stage V: Implement the Decision
- Put the decision into action
- Does the decision feel right to you? Learn to trust your instincts
Stage VI: Test the Decision
- Did the decision resolve the situation?
- Are you comfortable with the decision?
- If no to the above, how can you rework the decision? Can you combine elements of the alternative solutions to form a hybrid solution?
- Go through the process again if you have to
Like with everything in life the more practice you get the more adept you become. By applying the process to your unique situation, in no time you will become a better decision maker. And the best part is that the process also works for your personal life.
Final Thoughts on How to Make Better Decisions
As I journey toward mastering the 10 key skills needed for future jobs, based on new information, I could change some of the processes that I use today. That means, I may change my mind about the above model on how to make better decisions. If that’s the case, I will let you know what I’ve learned. My journey is also one of professional evolution.
I’d also like to add that when I checked to see which books I owned, that would teach me the 10 key skills, I only had one that was specifically about decision making. I’ve read the book, but I definitely need to read others.
Books for Career Development – Decision-Making