The 7 Steps of Effective Decision Making
Decision-making is one of the most important parts of any job, regardless of your position or industry. It is only through making decisions that there can be any change, improvement, development, or enhancement of people, processes, products and outcomes.
Thus, it is important that every individual in any business feels confident in their own ability to make decisions. In some cases, this may mean trusting their instinct. Sometimes we must make decisions on the spot using only the existing knowledge and experience that we have at that moment.
Other decisions might be bigger, perhaps we have a few days to make them because there is so much riding on the choice we make. Some decisions can be critical, with effects that may last into the future, or impact other people.
Either way, when we make decisions, we are usually running through several options in our minds and making an informed decision – whether that it is in 30 seconds or 30 minutes. Of course, when we have longer to make decisions, we have the luxury of gathering information, and truly comparing all our options.
Any leader in any organisation wants to feel confident that those in their business or teams can make effective decisions and making decisions and solving issues is made much easier when we have a set of tools and processes at our disposal.
In terms of being equipped to make decisions, there are multiple ways to approach decision-making and different models that can be employed. For the sake of this article, we’ve broken down 7 simple steps that can be considered a base approach when making decisions of any scale or importance to ensure the best outcome is achieved.
- Identify the decision. A step that is often underestimated is defining the nature of the decision you must make. Ensure you clearly recognise what is needed and why the decision at hand is important.
- Gather information. What is your decision based on? Consider what information is needed, the best sources of data, and how to get it. Remember, some information is internal, and some will be external, but it’s important you gain relevant information.
- Identify the alternatives. As you collect information, you will probably identify several possible paths of action or alternatives. You can also use your imagination and additional information to construct new alternatives.
- Evaluate the alternatives. Draw on your information and emotions to imagine what it would be like if you carried out each of the alternatives to the end. Which seems the most productive all things considered? As you go through this difficult internal process, you’ll begin to favour certain alternatives, those that seem to have a higher potential for reaching your goal.
- Select the best alternative. Once you have weighed all the evidence, you are ready to select the alternative that seems to be the best one for you. You may even choose a combination of alternatives.
- Take action. Begin to implement the option you selected in Step 5.
- Review. Evaluate your decision and its consequences in this final step, consider the results of your decision and evaluate whether or not it has resolved the need you identified in Step 1. If the decision has not met the identified need, you may want to repeat certain steps of the process to make a new decision. For example, you might want to gather more detailed or somewhat different information or explore additional alternatives.
Beyond laying out a simple step-by-step process, we can also identify a handful of tips worth keeping in mind as you explore that process.
Trust your instincts. Whilst it is crucial that you gather all the information available to you, you must also trust your inner voice – you are in the position you are professionally because you earned it, and chances are you have some good knowledge and experience, it’s both helpful and important to lean into that at times.
Separate facts from opinions. Being able to trust your inner voice relies on separating the facts from the opinions of yourself and others. Opinions are important to decision-making, but only when you have clearly laid out all the factual information too (without mixing them up!).
Keep the outcome at the forefront. Most decisions involve problem-solving or are aimed at reaching a specific goal. Focusing on the desired outcome throughout your process rather than the problem will help you make a more informed decision.
Be flexible. There will always be times that you might have to challenge your instincts. Be willing to at least explore options that might not feel as natural to you.
Ultimately, decision-making is a process. Sometimes it takes days, weeks or even months. We can train ourselves or our employees to make effective and well-informed decisions, as poor decision making can impact individuals, teams and whole businesses in massive ways. Having go-to processes for decision-making helps the practice become second nature over time.
Trainer Bubble offer an e-learning course in decision making designed for directors, managers and other leaders to help them make smarter, more timely, thoughtful decisions.
We also offer downloadable training course materials in decision making which are designed to equip your course participants with the ability to explore decision types and their difference from outcomes; evaluate decision making alternatives; understand how to make decisions as a team; overcome decision making traps; and review decisions as part of self-development.
Trainer Bubble provide an extensive range of training resources in a variety of formats which can be explored here. Or, for more information, and to discuss the learning needs of your business, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.