Decision-making is an integral part of human life in both the personal and professional world. It is the process of making choices by identifying a decision, gathering information, and assessing alternative resolutions. This is not an inherent but an acquired skill that is in high demand in the professional world because it enhances your leadership qualities and makes you eligible for such a role.
What are decision-making skills?
The DECIDE model is the acronym of 6 particular activities needed in the decision-making process:
(1) D = define the problem,
(2) E = establish the criteria
(3) C = consider all the alternatives
(4) I = identify the best alternative
(5) D = develop and implement a plan of action
(6) E = evaluate and monitor the solution and feedback when necessary
The DECIDE model is intended as a resource for health care managers when applying the crucial components of decision making, and it enables managers to improve their decision-making skills, which leads to more effective decisions.
Why is Decision-making an important leadership skill?
Improve workplace productivity
Effective decisions can save time and propel work projects forward, increasing employee productivity. For example, employees at a small furniture store disagree about when to host the annual spring sale, which prevents them from promoting the sale and preparing the store for an influx of customers. The manager of the store announces the sale date in April. This decision starts the planning process and motivates employees to complete their associated occupational tasks.
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Create action plans in emergency situations
Emergency situations may require managers to make quick, impactful decisions to minimize damage and optimize benefits. For example, a small town experiences a power outage, and employees at a local grocery store become concerned with how this may affect their work hours.
The store manager decides to open the store operating on a generator and provide work hours for employees who can safely travel to the store. This ensures employees can work to earn income and the store receives business. When unexpected situations occur, it’s important for managers to assess organizational needs and decide how best to proceed.
Establish trust with the employees
Good decision-making can help managers show their employees that they value their work and have their best interests in mind. When a manager takes the time to evaluate, analyze and explain decisions, they also display thoughtfulness and trustworthiness. Employees may feel they can confide in their managers about their interests and concerns.
The decision-making process can decrease conflict by setting clear expectations for employees, leaving little room for misunderstandings. As a manager, you can provide direction on how your team collaborates to achieve organizational goals. For example, you may assign teams for major projects to distribute the work evenly. Deciding what standards you want for your team can promote shared understandings instead of confusion.
7 Decision-making process steps
Though there are many slight variations of the decision-making framework floating around on the Internet, in business textbooks, and in leadership presentations, professionals most commonly use these seven steps.
1. Identify the decision
To make a decision, you must first identify the problem you need to solve or the question you need to answer. Clearly define your decision. If you misidentify the problem to solve, or if the problem you’ve chosen is too broad, you’ll knock the decision train off the track before it even leaves the station.
If you need to achieve a specific goal from your decision, make it measurable and timely.
2. Gather relevant information
Once you have identified your decision, it’s time to gather the information relevant to that choice. Do an internal assessment, seeing where your organization has succeeded and failed in areas related to your decision. Also, seek information from external sources, including studies, market research, and, in some cases, evaluation from paid consultants.
Keep in mind, you can become bogged down by too much information and that might only complicate the process.
3. Identify the alternatives
With relevant information now at your fingertips, identify possible solutions to your problem. There is usually more than one option to consider when trying to meet a goal. For example, if your company is trying to gain more engagement on social media, your alternatives could include paid social advertisements, a change in your organic social media strategy, or a combination of the two.
4. Weigh the evidence
Once you have identified multiple alternatives, weigh the evidence for or against said alternatives. See what companies have done in the past to succeed in these areas, and take a good look at your organization’s own wins and losses. Identify potential pitfalls for each of your alternatives, and weigh those against the possible rewards.
5. Choose among alternatives
Here is the part of the decision-making process where you actually make the decision. Hopefully, you’ve identified and clarified what decision needs to be made, gathered all relevant information, and developed and considered the potential paths to take. You should be prepared to choose.
6. Take action
Once you’ve made your decision, act on it! Develop a plan to make your decision tangible and achievable. Develop a project plan related to your decision, and then assign tasks to your team.
7. Review your decision
After a predetermined amount of time—which you defined in step one of the decision-making process—take an honest look back at your decision. Did you solve the problem? Did you answer the question? Did you meet your goals?
If so, take note of what worked for future reference. If not, learn from your mistakes as you begin the decision-making process again.
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How to improve Decision-making skills
Learn from Experience
The best decision-makers treat decision-making as a science. They record their decisions and the way they made them. They then follow that up with notes about how events turned out. You may not choose to go that far for all your decisions. you should occasionally take time to reflect on recent decisions, so you can learn from them. Give equal attention to those that turned out well, and those that did not.
There is always doubt: you can never be as certain as you would like. So, it’s important to stop pretending you have more certainty than you do have. Embrace the unknowns and admit you could be wrong. You should be testing each decision against multiple scenarios.
Give Yourself Options
The probability of success is a function of the number of options you consider. In principle, the more options you have, the more likely you are to succeed. But, there’s a limit. You don’t want too many… beyond around three or four options.
Argue it Out
To make better decisions, encourage rigorous debate and argument. Set different team members the task of building a case for each option. Set others the task of finding flaws in the arguments. Track the argument, so you fully understand each choice and see it from different perspectives. Spot whether the argument is about the data, how it is interpreted, or about people, or vision, or values. Each of these has a different resolution… or none.
Bring in Outsiders
Bring outsiders into your decision-making. Lots of research show they can improve decisions, through three effects:
- Being different, they think differently.
- Difference also creates a distinct point of view and new insights.
- They are objective, and therefore will care more about the decision than about egos and relationships.
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