To recap, a decision is a choice between various ways of accomplishing a particular task or goal. Decision making is NOT problem solving. Decision making is a component of the problems solving process and why I chose to present the decision process first. The two processes are complimentary but not synonymous.
7 Steps to Effective Decisions
There are 7 steps in making effective decision. They are:
1. Establishing Objectives
2. Setting Priorities of Objectives
3. Developing Alternatives
5. Choosing an Interim Solution
6. Assessing Results
7. Implementing Controls
How To Make the Best Decision Every Time
Making a decision is the most important task any manager will perform during his career. Unfortunately, there is little formal training provided to managers or employees in the art and science of making decisions.
In the previous post, I covered steps 3 & 4 – Developing Alternatives and How To Evaluate Them. In this post we will discuss how to choose the best alternative, evaluate it and then how to ensure it remains in effect.
STEP 5 – Choosing the Best Option as an Interim or Trial Solution
Now that the objectives have been established, their priorities set, and alternatives have been determined and evaluated, it is time to choose the best alternative and implement it as a trial solution.
The alternative that received the highest scoring in Step #4 is typically the best course of action to pursue or at least initially. This is a tentative decision that should provide the best outcome for the fewest resources based on the best evidence available. However, it may not be the perfect solution or choice and could only be the least of all “evils”. Regardless, it will represent the best balance of positives and negatives based on the defined objectives and identified alternatives.
A key in this process is to remember that the option chosen is an INTERIM solution. It might be the final solution but it may not work as well as desired. It is important to remember that this does not have to be the final solution and this gives you the freedom to change your mind when new information is available. This interim solution is based on the best evidence so far that indicates it:
* will yield the best returns and results for the least inputs
* is not a perfect choice
* may be the best of a set of poor choices
* is probably a compromise
The last point here is that any decision, once placed into action, will create other “effects” or problems similar to the “Hummingbird Effect”. These follow-on effects may dictate implementation of an alternate solution.
STEP 6 – Assess the Consequences of the Chosen Alternative
Each alternative should be considered independently and visualized or simulated as if it were in operation. As you assess the outcome of each option, record the intended results and the secondary, unintended results. Question how the secondary effects may impact the primary outcome and whether these secondary effects will negatively impact the project as a whole.
It helps to ask yourself: “If we do this, then what?”
Here are common areas to review for trouble:
* People – attitudes, skills, productivity, development, safety
* Organization – relationships among various groups, communications, responsibility and delegation, coordination
* External influences – economy, competition, government and NGO
* Facilities – space, flexibility, location
* Processes – security of proprietary knowledge, adaptability
* Material availability
* Money – capital or fixed, expenses, ROI
* Output – quality, quantity, rate
* Personal – career, family, strengths & weaknesses
Making the best decisions with these optional items usually require the experience and skill from a more seasoned decision-maker or a diverse team with a good working relationship.
STEP 7 – Implementation and Follow Through
I do not golf and was never much of a baseball player, but coaches always told me to “follow through” when swinging the bat or throwing the ball. This concept of follow through is as critical to decision making as in sports – without it, no one knows where the ball, or project, will land.
This is the fourth post about decision-making in the business realm. These can be simple or complex decisions that impact from just a few people or dollars up to entire multi-national corporations. And even with the most rigorous of processes, a failure to follow through with implementation dooms the entire project.
There are just a few steps that must be followed to ensure proper implementation. They are simple to understand and implement, at least initially, but the difficulty lies in the consistent application of the steps day-in and day-out. This is where outstanding managers really shine.
1. Establish controls and reporting procedures to monitor progress
2. Follow-up on orders to know they have been understood
3. Determine who implements these orders and verify she understands them
4. Establish a specific reporting date and time
5. Establish a warning system
This step alone is worthy of a post or two and will be addressed in the spring as this post has run a bit longer than normal. However I will briefly state that the key to any follow-up plan is communication – both from the manager to the implementer and back up the chain. The manager must be clear in the language of her directions and make it crystal clear to the entire organization that the warning system is for guiding the operation and not a tool for shooting the messenger.
If you missed any part of this series on making decisions, CLICK HERE to go to the beginning of the series.
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