Decision-making is an inescapable task for managers. In the eyes of staff members, it is the managers who must take the final responsibility for decisions. Each year they make literally thousands of them, large and small. In the end, the quality of those decisions determines the success of a manager’s efforts. If you want to become a quality decision maker, particularly when the ‘big’ decisions count, these guidelines will help…

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1. Adopt a systematic approach.

Decision making is actually part of problem solving: there would be no decision to make if there were no problem to solve. Decision-making is that component of the problem-solving process that follows analysis of the problem and is followed, in turn, by action to carry out the decision. The problem-solving process outlined in the previous topic could well be used in arriving at major decisions.

2. Focus on important decisions.

Try not to spend too much time on small matters. It’s the important decisions that must receive your full attention. Deciding who should fill the hot water urn each morning is of less importance than a decision about the focus of the new marketing strategy. Importance is determined by asking such questions as: How close is the deadline? What are the consequences of a poor decision? Who is affected by the decision? Is the decision reversible? Answers to such questions will also help clarify the decision to be made.

3. Avoid making snap decisions.

Spur-of-the-moment decisions are often merely guesses. Quantity can be no substitute for quality. Impetuous decisions relating to major issues could later lead to a serious log jam of consequential problems. On the other hand…

4. Don’t become a victim of analysis paralysis.

Limitations of time and resources do not allow for a thorough analysis of all issues every time. So don’t drag your feet. By putting off a decision, you will only add to an already overflowing agenda of unfinished business.

5. Base your decision on facts.

A decision is no better than the data on which it is based. Have all the facts at your disposal. Improve your exploration of options by asking yourself such questions as: What facts do I have? What else do I need to know? Whom should I ask? What should I ask? What printed matter is available?

6. Don’t be afraid of making the wrong decision.

There is a risk involved in every decision; no one is blessed with infinite wisdom. Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that can happen if I make the wrong choice? Rarely is a disaster the consequence! A readiness to risk failure is a quality that characterises all good decision-makers.

7. Learn from your mistakes.

If your decision is later shown to be the wrong one, find out where you went wrong. Seek advice from others. Did you neglect or under-emphasise any of the problem-solving steps listed in the previous topic?

8. Use your imagination.

A logical decision is not always the best answer in all situations. Be prepared to use brainstorming techniques, analogies, and lateral thinking in your search for a new approach to the problem at hand. Use the technique that best fits the problem.

9. Resist making decisions under stress.

When you have to make a decision under crisis conditions, stand back from the problem and consider the situation. For example, you may not have to make an immediate decision. Use all the time available to ensure the best response. Avoid impulse decisions: if you are angry or upset, delay your response. Decisions made under stress can be faulty.

10. Make your decision, then move on.

US psychiatrist Leon Utterback says:

“The best way to make a decision is to do your worrying before you place your bet. In other words, do everything you can to first make sure the right decision is made. But once you’ve made that decision and execution is the order of the day, then stop worrying and fretting about the outcome.”*

So, banish past decisions from your mind or you’ll lose the capacity to give your full and undivided attention to the more pressing and important needs of the present.

11. And don’t forget…

  • View decision making as a valuable opportunity for your professional growth.
  • Ask: What would someone else do in my circumstances? Seek help from others, journals, or reference books.
  • Refer to existing policies whenever possible: decisions can often be straightforward and immediate.
  • Periodically review the results of your decisions to check that they worked.
  • Discuss with your colleagues decisions that will affect other people – but assume the responsibility yourself for the final decision.
  • Every decision involves some risk.
  • Time does not always improve a situation when it comes to decision-making.


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