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Will you have the chocolate or strawberry? Drive to work or car pool? Give employee X a project or employee Y? We make dozens of quick decisions everyday unconsciously and without thinking twice about them, some decisions on the other hand paralyze us and make us wonder which is the right path to take.
Decision making is an important leadership skill. If you can make well-thought out decisions in a timely manner, you can lead your team to success.
Decision making can be defined as “ the process of examining your possibilities, options, and comparing them and then choosing a course of action.”
Simple decisions usually have a simple decision making process, and we rarely think twice about it, choosing instead to let our unconscious guide us along the right path.
On the other hand difficult decisions often have other issues attached to them, such as:
- Not knowing enough about the situation
- Complexity of the situation
- The impact of the decision may be significant
- Each alternative has it’s own set of uncertainties and consequences
- It can be difficult to judge how your decision will affect and will be taken by other people.
Tips to Make Effective Decisions
Over the next couple of pages we will look at why we need to make effective decisions as a manager, along with the six steps to decision making.
1. Why make effective decisions?
As a leader there will be many times you will have to make a decision and then commit to seeing it through. As a manager you must be able to make decisions both quickly and effectively and then take responsibility for your decision, regardless of whether it is negative or positive.
As a manager you must know that action is vital to the growth and development of your team and that procrastination kills productivity. In the course of your day, your team will look up to you to make decisions that affect them personally and also the organisation on the whole.
While in your personal life you may make decisions based on gut instinct, when it comes to decision making at work, it is better to follow the six steps of the decision making process in order to ensure that you are making the most effective decision for you and for your team.
2. Step 1: Create a constructive environment
The first step to decision making is to establish the objective or what is it that you want to achieve. It helps to articulate the problem in the form of a statement along with the objectives. You may also want to involve other people who may play a key role in the decision or maybe get more information from them which will help you make a more informed call. Define the problem in terms of What, Why, How, When, Who and Where.
3. Step 2: Generate alternatives
Once you have defined the problem and the objective, you need to know all the possible ways you can solve this problem.
Some of the ways for you to generate good alternatives are to:
- Brainstorm—either alone or in a team
- Write down any ideas you may have
- Ask other people for ways to solve the problem
- Research either on the internet or within the organisation to understand if people have had a similar problem in the past.
4. Step 3: Explore the alternatives
Once you have complied a list of possible alternatives, it is time to evaluate each alternative to see which one is the best.
Here are some ways to do that:
- How much risk or uncertainty in involved for each alternative?
- What are the consequences of implementing each of these alternatives?
- What is the feasibility of each option in terms of resources, matching your objectives, timelines etc.
5. Step 4: Choose the best alternative
Now that you have evaluated each alternative it is time to choose the best option. In some cases the best option may be the most obvious.
If not, it may help you to list the pro’s and con’s of each alternative or to compare each on various factors side by side in order to determine the best one.
Think of how we comparison shop for a new TV, evaluating our choices feature by feature until we identify the model and brand which meets all our requirements and is within our budget.
You can use the same process to choose between alternatives.
6. Step 5: Check your decision
It is a good idea to relook at the alternative that you have chosen and check if it is indeed the right option. Go through each step of the process and evaluate if it is thorough or if you have made any errors in the process. Mentally check all the assumptions and decisions you have made against your experience and sometimes even your instinct can help you decide if this is the best path to take or not.
7. Step 6: Communicate your decision and act
Now that you have made your decision, it is important to communicate it to anyone who is affected by it or who is involved in implementing it.
You may want to tell them why you chose the alternative that you did and also provide information on possible risks, benefits and other important information.This will help you get their commitment to seeing your decision implemented and supported.