Over every decision hovers a measure of uncertainty—for all decisions will play out somewhere in the uncertain future. Good decision making, like good problem solving, depends heavily on experience and judgment. When we are confronted with simple choices, memory and experience allow us, in a fraction of a second, to choose well. Turn left, shut the door, skip dessert…tiny decisions play out in our lives every day. But productive, coherent action—as opposed to simple reaction at the moment—depends on a sound basis for choice.
In organizations, decision makers are expected to select the right actions, determine how to carry them out, and take responsibility for their successful implementation.
In organizations, decision makers are expected to select the right actions, determine how to carry them out, and take responsibility for their successful implementation. Too often, however, there is uncertainty over how to proceed. People find they cannot agree on where or how to start making the decision, they may overlook important information, make mistakes, or avoid decision making all together (which is actually a decision to do nothing with its own results and consequences).
Decision making is often not as good as it should be. Yet even rapid, reactive decision-making draws on at least one of these factors:
- Determination of purpose (to what end the choice is being made).
- Consideration of available options (how best to fulfill the purpose).
- Assessment of the relative risks of available options (which action is likely to be safest or most productive).
As decisions become more complex, involve more resources, or have greater effect on the future, it makes sense to ensure that all these factors are considered before the final choice is made.
Within organizations, a shared process for decision making provides everyone with a guide for the reasoning needed to make the best-balanced choice. By addressing the three, basic factors outlined above, a good decision-making process can support simple, day-to-day decisions or be scaled up to consider a wide array of objectives and involve input from many people.
Decision-making is a critical thinking skill that can be improved with training and practice. Like all critical thinking skills, it is widely applicable and doesn’t become obsolete with changes in technology or business practices. Within an organization, a shared process for decision making clarifies how a good decision is made and how to go about doing it.
In our experience at KT, organizations are likely to first require use of a set decision-making process for expensive capital investments. But the clarity and flexibility of a shared decision-making process quickly makes it the de facto approach in informal settings as well as for a wide range of significant decisions for everything from hiring, marketing and maintenance to strategy, finance and production.
At the very least, however, a scalable, well-structured decision-making process reduces the incidence of errors by applying basic logic to answer: What course of action should we take?
The power of the process lies in the ability to make productive use of all available information and judgments. It does not guarantee that perfect decisions will be made. With human fallibility and the usual inadequacy of available information, there can always be errors. At the very least, however, a scalable, well-structured decision-making process reduces the incidence of errors by applying basic logic to answer: What course of action should we take?
We work within an environment of rapid change that requires an agile, flexible workforce. Whether it is in response to the pandemic, technological change, economic demands, or myriad other factors, good decision-making can lay the groundwork for ongoing success.
Software and templates don’t solve problems. People solve problems!
What kind of people? People who are curious, ask great questions, make decisions based on facts, and are empowered to lead. They remain focused under pressure and act confidently to do what needs to be done. You’ll find these problem-solving leaders both at our clients and here at Kepner-Tregoe. For over 60 years, Kepner-Tregoe has empowered thousands of companies to solve millions of problems. If we can save millions for a manufacturer, restore IT service for a stock exchange, and help Apollo 13 get back from space, we can help your business achieve success.