How Decision Making Works
The goal of decision making is to enable individuals and organizations to set objectives, choose practicable courses of action and evaluate potential outcomes. This helps to guide their actions and maximize the benefits they receive from them.
Good decision makers gather information from a wide range of sources and identify many possible solutions to their problem. They also weigh opportunities and risks against each of those choices.
Identifying the Problem
The first step of decision making involves identifying the problem and gathering information. This is a crucial step because you cannot solve a problem you do not fully understand.
Once you have all the information you need, it is time to start thinking about potential solutions. Rational decision makers will evaluate each solution and make a choice based on the pros and cons of each option.
Intuitive decision makers, on the other hand, will base their decisions on instinct and gut feelings. They will often play out a possible course of action in their mind based on prior experience and pattern recognition.
Taking the time to gather relevant information is key when making decisions. Some of this is internal and comes from the decision maker themselves, while some involves seeking information from external sources.
Gathering information will help you identify different solutions to the problem. It’s important to look for resources outside of your team and company, such as doing market research or utilizing a consultant.
When gathering information, it is important to keep in mind some of the decision-making traps, such as a role fulfillment effect, underestimating uncertainty and the Sunk Cost Fallacy. These can lead to bad choices that negatively impact your business.
Identifying Your Goal
Every day, you make a multitude of decisions. While many of them seem insignificant, they can have a big impact on your life outcomes and professional development.
Choosing what type of milk you want to add to your coffee in the morning is probably not the most important decision that requires a conscious choice, but making a good one can be crucial.
Once you have identified the problem, gathered information and weighed all of your options, it is time to decide. It is best to make a decision that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited.
Creating a Plan of Action
Once a viable course of action has been identified, it’s time to put your plan into motion. You can do this through an intuitive process, a logical process or a combination of both.
This step can be tricky because there’s so much information that needs to be reviewed. Getting fresh perspectives can help, and using strategies like flow charts can help you stay organized.
It’s also important to make sure that the right people are in the decision-making team. Hackman says that teams make 75 percent better decisions than individuals.
Making the Final Decision
Once you have identified what decision needs to be made, gathered all the relevant information and developed and considered potential paths forward, it’s time to make the final choice. This is also where you’ll want to review the possible repercussions of your decision.
This step is often the hardest part of the decision making process. If you find yourself struggling, try using a visual tool to help you weigh the evidence. This could be something like a decision tree or other form of data analysis. Alternatively, you could use intuitive decision making. This involves running a potential course of action through a mental model and then testing it.
Putting It into Action
Once a decision is made and put into action, it’s important to evaluate how that decision is working. This helps you improve your decision making skills for future problems.
This step requires you to look at all of your solutions and analyze how each would address your initial problem. This may take some time, but it’s an important part of the decision-making process.
Sometimes a decision doesn’t provide an obvious winner. This is where a good decision maker can really shine. By setting their decision criteria before searching for all possibilities, they avoid liking one option too much and are able to objectively weigh the alternatives.
In this step you evaluate your decision to determine how well it worked and what its consequences were. This is a critical step that ensures that the final decision meets your business needs and produces desirable results.
This evaluation can be done using a variety of tools and techniques, including the traditional rational model where you list all of the options and weigh the pros and cons of each one. However, this model doesn’t reflect how decisions are actually made and it fails to accurately predict outcomes. A much better approach is the intuitive decision making model that Gary Klein studied among firefighters and medical personnel who are often faced with life or death situations.